Carl Hoeckner Biography

Carl Hoeckner





Carl Hoeckner, was born on December 19, 1883 in Munich, Germany to a family with a long line of artists. His early art education began under his father, an etcher, and flourished through formal study at art academies in cities throughout Germany and in Belgium. The senior Hoeckner who was born in Vienna and travelled throughout Europe working as an engraver, instilled in his son an enthusiasm for America and impressed upon him the value of commercial art as a means to finance more creative endeavors. His son trained in Hamburg and Cologne and began his work as an artist in Munich, where he illustrated for magazines, and was trained as a lithographer. Carl also traveled as a student and artist to Munich, Berlin, Hamburg, Cologne, Leipzig and Brussels.

After arriving in America in 1910, he worked in Chicago at Marshall Field's department store in their advertising department and stayed there throughout the war, while at the same time pursuing his interest in fine art. Becoming increasingly political and critical of war as a result of World War I, he painted a piece called "War", which was exhibited in 1918 at the Architectural League, New York. Between 1918 and 1927, he sent his protest paintings on exhibition throughout the states, meeting with some success. One of them, "The Homecoming of 1918", showed a crowd of gaunt, wounded people with nightmarish expressions marching towards the viewer. Bulliet described the painting as "perhaps the most poerful incitment of war ever painted in America."

Beginning in 1926 Hoeckner found a new interest in industrial and war subjects, reflected in his paintings including the 'Steel Era", which he described as symbolic of both of those subjects. This influence directed a number of his prints and drawings for years to come. In 1929 he became an instructor at the Art Institute of Chicago where he taught classes in industrial design, and in the 1930s he served as director of the graphics division of the Illinois Art Project of the Works Progress Administration. This position allowed him to express his political views and also to influence other artists to do the same. In his lithographs from the 1930s, Hoeckner’s talents as a printmaker and his activism coalesced to produce “social documents” reflecting his ideals of justice.

Throughout his life Hoeckner explored both "commercial art," which was how he made a living, and "fine art," which was his definition of self-expression. Sometimes he reduced the original size of paintings by cutting them down. Exhibition venues included the Society of Indenpendent Artists, Salons of America, the Pennsylvania Academy and the National Academy of Design. Murals by Hoeckner are in the Coonley School in Downers Grove, Illinois.

During his career, Hoeckner participated in numerous group exhibitions with the Chicago Society of Artists and Chicago Society of Etchers, and showed two of his paintings at the Century of Progress Exposition in 1933. He exhibited in other major US cities: in New York with the Society of Independent Artists (1918, 1928–29) and at the National Academy of Design (1942–43), and at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (1921). He taught at the School of the Art Institute from 1929 to 1943 to supplement his work as a fine artist. Through his teaching, original oil paintings, lithographs, and social activism, Hoeckner left behind an enduring legacy of the art scene in Chicago during the Depression.

Carl Hoeckner died in Berkeley, California on May 1, 1972