Leonard Edmondson Biography

Leonard Edmondson




Leonard Edmondson, painter, printmaker, educator, and author, was born in Sacramento, California on June 21, 1916. He formal art studies began at Los Angeles City College, and in 1937, he entered the University of California at Berkeley, receiving his B.A. degree in 1940 and his M.A. degree in 1942. With the onset of World War II, Edmondson served in the U.S. Army in Military Intelligence, stationed in Europe from 1942 to 1946. During these years he was exposed to the work of Paul Klee, whose art would remain an influence on Edmondson throughout his career and would inspire his turn from figurative art to non-objective. When the war ended and he continued to be stationed in France, he spent his spare time exploring the collections of the Louvre.

Returning to California in 1947, Edmondson accepted the first teaching position of his distinguished career at Pasadena City College. Meanwhile, he continued to create his own works and, while known for his printmaking, he worked in a wide variety of media. By 1950 his style changed again, now with influences of Surrealism and Abstract Expressionism. Of this change Leonard Edmondson wrote: “This vocabulary manifests itself in a dynamic structure where color responds to the size and position of shapes, and reinforces the intent of the composition. Lines close to make shapes that occupy shallow space. I am equally concerned with what I want to say and the formal values I use to say it. My painting is not art of rebellion but one of discovery and sharing. I have found satisfaction in the spontaneous, often compulsive, active of drawing and painting.” He joined the Califoria Watercolor Society and would soon become the first "radically modern" watercolorist to be accepted into a juried show at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

In 1960 he also began teaching at the Otis Art Institute, as well as the University of California at Berkeley (summers of 1960 and 1964). In 1961 he taught at the Pratt Institute, and in 1964 he was appointed chairman of the printmaking department at California State University, Los Angeles, where he remained until his retirement in 1986.

Edmondson took a class in etching from Ernest Freed in 1951 and the following year his print, Heralds of Inquiry, won an award at the 6th annual National Print Exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum. His first solo museum exhibition at the De Young Memorial Museum in 1952 was followed by solo exhibitions at the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena and the Santa Barbara Museum. He won his first Tiffany Fellowship in 1953 and the second in 1955. Edmondson was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1960, which allowed him to focus on his printmaking. In 1967 a retrospective of his work was held at the San Francisco Museum of Art and he published his technical treatise, Etching, in 1970. He was a member of and exhibited with the California Watercolor Society and the California Printmakers Society, the latter of which he was a founding member and served as president.

Edmondson’s work is represented in the collections of the Cranbrook Academy of Art, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan; the Brooklyn Museum, New York; the Dallas Museum of Fine Art, Texas; the Detroit Institute of Arts Museum, Michigan; the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell University, Ithaca, New York; the Victoria and Albert Museum, London; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, California; the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the New York Public Library, New York; Oakland Museum of California Art, California; the Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris; the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Pennsylvania; the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, California; the Seattle Art Museum, Washington; the National Gallery, Washington, D.C.; and the Worcester Art Museum, Massachusetts.

Leonard Edmondson died in West Covina, California on July 22, 2002.