Richard Artschwager was born on December 26, 1923 in Washington, DC. His mother was a Sunday painter who did portraits in the style of Oscar Kokoschka. When he was ten, because of his father's illness, the family moved to Las Cruces, New Mexico. Richard Artschwager went to Cornell where he studied chemistry but was drafted into the Army in 1944 and served in the European theater. In Vienna, he met his first wife Elfriede Wejmelka. In 1947, they married and returned to the United States. Richard Artschwager enrolled in Cornell again and got his Bachelor of Arts degree in Science.
They settled in New York where Richard Artschwager worked in a series of unconnected jobs like bank clerk, lathe operator, and baby photographer. In 1950, Richard Artschwager borrowed money and bought an old Federal-style building in the Chelsea section of Manhattan on West 22nd Street. His sister Marguerite and her husband, a doctoral student named Arthur Kay moved in too. The two men began a small production company making fine furniture. Richard Artschwager had evolved into doing collages with wood, paper, cloth and formica, in a minimalist style. It might be best to say that the Fifties were preparation for the move to the art world for Richard Artschwager. He made a great deal of furniture in those days and even sold one item, a boomerang-shaped desk, to the Pottery Barn. In 1954, a daughter was born and two years later his father died. In the late 1960s his marriage ended.
In November 1968, Richard Artschwager went to the University of Wisconsin as an artist-in-residence. There he met Catherine Kord, whom he married in 1972. The furniture business went under, and after he went through a period of hibernation his work began to sell and recognition began to appear on a grander scale. Richard Artschwager experimented with many widely diverse forms.
Richard Artschwager married a third time to Molly O'Gorman and they had a daughter Clara.
Steven Henry Madoff in Art News, January 1988
Compiled and written by Jean Ershler Schatz, artist and researcher of Laguna Woods, California.
Biography from the Archives of AskART.