Edmund D. Lewandowski Biography

Edmund D. Lewandowski

American

1914-1998

Biography

Precisionist painter, printmaker, and muralist Edmund Lewandowski was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1914, the son of Polish immigrants. He studied at the Layton School of Art under Garret Sinclair from 1931 to '34, then taking a position as a public school teacher to support himself while pursuing an art career. He also contracted as an illustrator and designer, with jobs in advertising firms and magazines.

Lewandowski quickly gained recognition for his vivid, Cubist-influenced depictions of everyday life. With the onset of the Great Depression, the up-and-coming Modern artist was offered commissions by the Treasury Section of the Federal Art Project to design murals for post offices in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois. His personal work soon turned from the figurative and scenes borrowed from Social Realism to pure Precicionism. 
Of his inspiration he said: "When I was a boy, a good deal of time was spent listing to shoptalk. All of my relatives were engaged in industry...so the depiction of industrial power technology and efficiency has always had a great attraction to me," (biography, West Bend Art Museum, Milwaukee). Soon, he garnered attention from major collectors and in 1936 he was invited to join the Downtown Gallery, owned and operated by Modern art dealer Edith Halpert. There, he exhibited alongside other artists of the Precisionist Movement such as Charles Sheeler, Georgia O'Keeffe, Charles Demuth, Ralston Crawford, and others.

His fine art career was interrupted by service in World War II as a camouflage artist and mapmaker for the Air Force; however, these designs in themselves led to further recognition for their Magic Realist feel, and he was included in a show themed around the genre at the Museum of Modern Art in 1943.

Following the war he took a teaching position at Florida State University from 1949 to 1954, when he returned to the Layton School. During this time a new chapter in his artistic career took form after a trip to Italy, where he was introduced to large scale mosaic works. Among his first major mosaic commissions was a mural on the facade of modernist architect Eero Saarinen's War Memorial Center in Milwaukee County (completed in 1957). He worked as the director of the school until 1972, and then took his final position as professor and chairman of the art department at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, South Carolina. He was named Professor Emeritus upon his retirement in 1984.

Edmund Lewandowski died in Rock Hill in 1988. His works are held in major museums throughout the United States, including the National Gallery of Art; the Brooklyn Museum; the Indianapolis Museum of Art; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; the Whitney Museum; and the Milwaukee Art Museum.