Claire Falkenstein Biography

Claire Falkenstein




Claire Falkenstein, sculptor, painter, printmaker, jewelry maker, and teacher, was born in Coos Bay, Oregon on 22 July 1908. She moved to Berkeley, California with her family in 1920. At the University of California Berkeley, she studied anthropology, philosophy, and art, receiving her bachelor’s degree in 1930. That same year her first solo exhibition opened at the East-West Gallery in San Francisco.

Falkenstein’s only formal training in sculpture was in a class at Mills College conducted by the sculptor, Alexander Archipenko, during the summer of 1933. Throughout her career, she explored the possibilities of clay, wood, sheet metal, wire, plastic, glass, and copper tubing. She made her first prints in 1940 during Stanley William Hayter’s summer course at the California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco.

Falkenstein taught drawing at Mills College from 1945 to 1948 and was appointed to the faculty of the California School of Fine Arts in the fall of 1947. She made friends with many of the Bay Area Abstract Expressionists. Falkenstein visited Paris in 1950 and decided to stay, opening her studio on the Left Bank. In Paris, she worked on her metal sculpture and developed experimental collagraphs at Atelier 17. While in Europe, Falkenstein created several large-scale commissions, including the railing of the Galleria Spazio in Rome and the gates of the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni in Venice, which houses the Peggy Guggenheim Collection.

She returned to United States in 1962, settling in Venice, California and focused her energies on large site sculptures, which included the monumental sculpture for the fountain of the California Federal Savings corporate headquarters in Los Angeles. Falkenstein was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1978.

Retrospective exhibitions of Claire Falkenstein’s work have been mounted at the Palm Springs Desert Museum and the Crocker Art Museum. Her work is represented in the collections of the Tate, London; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, California; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, California; the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.; and the Worcester Art Museum, Massachusetts.

Claire Falkenstein died in Venice, California on 23 October 1997.