Lorser Feitelson Biography

Lorser Feitelson




Lorser Feitelson was born in Savannah, Georgia, on February 11, 1898, but was raised in New York, where he received his early art training at the Art Students League. He was influenced by European modernist ideas after seeing the Armory Show in 1913. Between 1919 and 1926, he lived and worked in Paris, included in exhibition at the famous Salon d'Automne. His paintings, prints and drawings were exhibited in New York and in Paris. Upon his return to the United States, in 1926, Feitelson rejected the 'incestuous" influences of the New York art scene and made a decision to move to West.

Upon arriving in Los Angeles in 1927, Feitelson set out to change the cultural landscape of the growing city. In 1930, he taught at the Stickney Memorial Art School where he met and eventually married student Helen Lundeberg. He and Lundeberg proclaimed 'New Classicism/Post Surrealism'. Working within a classical figurative context, Feitelson combined symbolic elements into a structured surreal time-space, opposing the irrationality of European surrealism. This movement became the basis of the 1935 San Francisco Museum of Art's exhibition "Post-Surrealism", which went on to the Brooklyn Museum. As a result of that show, his and Lundeberg's paintings were included in the Museum of Modern Art's "Fantastic Art, Dada and Surrealism" in 1936. Simultaneously, Feitelson directed the Hollywood Gallery of Modern Art, he taught and painted for the Federal Arts Project, while serving as the director for its mural division, and he co-directed the Los Angeles Art Association. He also taught at the Chouinard Art Institute and, until his death, at the Art Center College in Los Angeles and Pasadena.

Though a post-surreal element remained in his work, by the 1940s Feitelson moved into anthropomorphic abstraction, creating canvases of 'Magical Forms'. By 1950, this movement evolved into non-objective geometric abstraction termed 'Magical Space Forms'. Meanwhile, between 1956 and 1963, Feitelson hosted "Feitelson on Art", a weekly NBC television series. In 1959 Feitelson was featured in the seminal exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art: "Four Abstract Classicists" with Karl Benjamin, Frederick Hammersly, and John McLaughlin. In conjunction with this exhibition, critic and curator Jules Langsner coined the term, 'HardEdge Colorforms'. In 1960, it opened in London as "West Coast HardEdge" with an introduction by Laurence Alloway. A reprise of this exhibition was mounted at LACMA in 1975.

During the last decade of his career, Feitelson again shifted to an even more minimalist form, employing sensuous tapers and bold lines against backgrounds of color.

From the 1930s, artist, teacher, collector and television host, Lorser Feitelson took his place as a central figure of the art historical developments in Los Angeles. From co-founding Post-Surrealism to pioneering concepts of hardedge colorform painting, Feitelson played a key role in the evolution of modernism in Los Angeles.

Lorser Feistelson died in Los Angeles, California on May 1, 1978.