Sunday, March 5, 2017

A New Book on Francis De Erdely: Call for Paintings and Drawings

Francis de Erdely, Day’s End, c. 1947 (Courtesy: Laguna Art Museum)

As an art historian and writer, my focus has been primarily on California Art. While in graduate school, I realized how little scholarship had been written on artists working on the West Coast, a major art center of the mid-century. It became my interest to research and write about the art of Southern California for my thesis. I choose to document the painting of Francis de Erdely.

*My thesis is now being published as the first major biography on the artist, Francis de Erdely. We are in the process of locating ALL KNOWN paintings and drawings by De Erdely. If you have a work by the artist (or know of someone who has one), please contact me directly.

Francis De Erdely (1904 - 1959) was born in Hungary by the name Ferenc Erdelyi. Formally trained and having studied the great artists of Europe, De Erdely established himself as a respected young artist. Traveling throughout Spain, De Erdely's was strongly influenced by the elongated, sinuous, figures of the artist, El Greco. After creating controversial drawings documenting the Spanish civil war, the politically critical artist came under the scrutiny of the Fascists. He was soon forced to flee Europe during the 1930s and moved to New York City and, briefly, Chicago.

Eventually he made his way to Southern California where he settled. As an American artist now, De Erdely painted traditional subjects such as portraits to make a living. He was also one of many immigrant artists who made their way to Southern California, a beacon of artistic innovation and collaboration of the time. California had already been rich in a history of Spanish and Mexican culture. During the 1800s it also became an influential center of American art, specifically California Impressionism. Many art schools had been formed in Southern California, including Chouinard Art Institute, Otis College of Art, and USC among others. This attracted teachers and artists from around the world.

De Erdely became one of mid-century California’s most influential modernist painters and teachers.
While De Erdely was classically trained artist, throughout his career he remained committed to painting the figure. His portraits of migrants, gypsies, laborers, and dancer were painted as a modern commentary about the joys and plight of the human condition in Southern California. His works remains as salient today as when it was created a half century ago.

ART of Southern California in Art History

There is a growing movement of interest on the art of Southern California, including the major 2002 exhibition, Pacific Standard Time, organized by the Getty Museum. This is one of most exciting exhibitions ever organized and centered around the art of Southern California.  Pacific Standard Time developed into a collaboration amongst more than 60 museums and cultural institutions across California, highlighting the work of some artists who hadn't been recognized since the 1940s and 1950s. Viewers were able to see paintings by extraordinary but lesser known artists like Henry Lee McFee, Bentley Schaad, Millard Sheets, and Sueo Serisawa.

Culminating in a series of top notch exhibitions at major museums, the exhibition called Pacific Standard Time: Art in L.A. 1945–1980 were on display from October 2011-April 2012 across Southern California. The revolutionary collaborative exhibition inspired more than 40 publications to document Los Angeles' impact on art history during the modern and post-war years. 

Pacific Standard Time: Art in L.A. also garnered international press and spurred other offshoot exhibitions at galleries and institutions across the world. Los Angeles' art historical significance had finally begun to be recognized. Currently a continuation of Pacific Standard Time is being organized the Getty, called La/La: A Celebration Beyond, which will continue to spread the word about California's impact on art history.

Another exciting addition to California art history is new museum called the Hilbert Museum of California Art which has one of the strong collections of California art, second only to The Irvine Museum

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