John von Wicht Biography

John von Wicht

American

1888-1970

Biography

Born in Malente in northern Germany on February 3, 1888, John von Wicht studied at the private art academy in Darmstadt. His studies continued at the Royal School for Fine and Applied Arts in Berlin where he learned the techniques of lithography. At seventeen he apprenticed as a craftsman in a painting and decorating shop and spent his spare time drawing from nature.

During World War I, von Wicht was wounded and partially paralyzed. His recovery was prolonged but he devoted his time to book design and illustration work. Unable to find employment as a craftsman after the war, he emigrated to the United States in 1923. Settling in Brooklyn Heights, von Wicht found employment with a lithography company and as an artisan making stained glass and mosaics. In 1936 he became a naturalized citizen and was soon hired on the mural painting division of the FAP/WPA.

Von Wicht combined geometric abstraction amd dense color in his paintings. In the late 1930s, he exhibited with the American Abstract Artists group and the Federation of Modern Painters and Sculptors and in 1939, his first solo show opened in New York at the Theodor A. Kohn Gallery.

During World War II, von Wicht served as captain of a supply barge ferrying food to army transport ships in New York harbor. Harbor themes began to appear in his abstractions and, during the 1950s, his sensuously colored geometric abstractions gave way to loose, expressionistic forms. In 1954 von Wicht received the first of twelve annual residencies at the MacDowell Colony in New Hampshire. He exhibited his prints regularly in exhibitions of the New York Painter-Printmakers and the 14 Painter-Printmakers group and, in 1959, a traveling exhibition of his latest work was organized by the Galerie Internationale d'Art Contemporaine in Paris. In the 1960s von Wicht purchased a cabin in Majorca and divided his year with summers there and winters in at the MacDowell Colony in New Hampshire. His international reputation was assured. Before his death, he arranged for a large body of his work to be gifted to the Syracuse University Art Collection.

John von Wicht died on January 22, 1970 in Brookyn, New York.