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Lorser Feitelson

A painter, Lorser Feitelson became known for abstraction but briefly explored mural painting of regionalist subjects. In his signature work, Feitelson used many images and symbols that evoke dreams and address the subconscious mind. He was a key figure in modern art in California at a time when that area had little exposure to avant-garde styles of which he explored a variety including Surrealism, Cubism and Kinetic work.

Feitelson was born in Savannah, Georgia but grew up in New York City. His father was an art connoisseur and took his son on frequent visits to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. After the 1913 Armory Show in New York, which introduced modern art to America, he turned to abstraction and by age eighteen, had established a studio. In the 1920s he went back and forth between New York and Paris and exhibited at the Salon D’Automne in Paris and various galleries in New York.

Tiring of the insularity of the New York art scene, he moved to Los Angeles in 1927 and became a leader of the avant-garde art scene there. One of his students was Jackson Pollock before Pollock moved to New York, and another was Philip Guston. He opened one of the first modern art galleries in Los Angeles, and a television series, “Feitelson on Art,” ran on NBC in Los Angeles.

He married artist Helen Lundeberg, and together they formulated a style called Post-Surrealism which borrowed imagery of Surrealism but rejected its lack of conscious process. Rather than random arrangements, the compositions were carefully developed, and the mind was led logically from one element to the next.

In the late 1930s, Feitelson became an administrator of the Federal Art Project of the WPA for Southern California and did five murals for this program. Shortly after that, in the 1940s, he found his mature style.

Sources include:
Matthew Baigell, Dictionary of American Art
Edan Hughes, Artists in California, 1786-1940

Biography from the Archives of AskART.