John von Wicht Biography

John von Wicht




John Von Wicht painter, muralist, printmaker, and mosaicist, was born Johannes Von Wicht on 3 February 1888 in Malente, Germany. At the age of seventeen, he apprenticed as a craftsman in a painting and decorating shop and spent his spare time drawing from nature. In 1909-1910, he studied applied arts at the Privatschule of Hesse-Darmstadt. With a three-year scholarship to the Royal School of Fine and Applied Arts in Berlin, Von Wicht studied lithography, mosaics and stained glass and received his Bachelor of Arts in 1912.

During World War I, Von Wicht was wounded but he devoted his time to book design and illustration work during his long recovery. 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 Federal Art Project/WPA. He collaborated with Stuart Davis, Byron Browne and Louis Schanker on a mural for Radio Station WNYC and today Von Wicht’s mural is on long-term loan with the Brooklyn Public Library.

Von Wicht combined geometric abstraction and 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. In 1944, he exhibited oils and gouaches at The Artist Gallery and, the following year, he showed at the Kleeman 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.

Von Wicht exhibited his prints regularly with the New York Painter-Printmakers and the 14 Painter-Printmakers group. In 1959, a traveling exhibition of his 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.

John Von Wicht’s work is represented in the High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Georgia; the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, Massachusetts; the Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indiana; the British Museum, London; the Brooklyn Museum, New York; the Weisman Art Museum, Minneapolis, Minnesota; the Museum of Modern Art, and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Syracuse University Art Museum, New York; the Library of Congress, the National Gallery, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C., the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington; and the Worcester Art Museum, Massachusetts.

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