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 Simon Maurice Wachtel  (1900 - 1965)

About: Simon Maurice Wachtel
 

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Lived/Active: Pennsylvania/New Jersey      Known for: landscape, still life, abstract, mural

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BIOGRAPHY for Simon Wachtel
Facts/Data
Birth
1900 (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
 
Death
1965 (Atlantic City, New Jersey)

Lived/Active
Pennsylvania/New Jersey


Photo of Simon Maurice Wachtel


Often Known For
landscape, still life, abstract, mural

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following is from Judith (Wachtel) Sansweet, daughter of the artist

Simon Maurice Wachtel: American Artist and Visionary, 1900-1965

"That Simon Wachtel is currently unlisted in any of the standard reference books we art dealers use in our daily quest for credential is...baffling. It may be attributable to the fact that he was in many ways inner-directed, unaffiliated and self-motivated. After he started a family and business in the late 1930's, he avoided any self- promotion and he certainly lacked aggressive dealer representation. Whatever the reason, I was astonished because of the quality of his painting, that no listing seemed to exist. However this compelling work speaks for itself and thankfully, with his family's help, we have been able to assemble a factual biography for an artist whose career deserves fresh examination." .Thomas McCormick Works of Art, Chicago

Simon Maurice Wachtel, the eldest of five children, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on September 4, 1900, to Austrian immigrant parents. His talent for painting emerged early and by age 14 he had won a city-wide art competition held by Wanamaker's, a major department store. He attended Central High School and at age 16 entered the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts as a senior. He also studied at the Graphic Sketch Club, Philadelphia School of Industrial Design, the University of Pennsylvania and the Barnes Foundation. The artist steeped himself in the study of classicism, color theory and the Old Masters and despite his formal study, he was largely self-taught.

In 1934 Wachtel married Agatha Bord, an elementary school teacher, and in 1938 they moved to Washington DC where Simon established Cytel Exhibits and Crafts, a company which created and produced promotional and educational displays and exhibits for U.S. Government Departments and for private industry. During the years in Washington, Simon and Gay had three children, (Judith, Anita and Barry) and Wachtel focused his attention on business and family, but continued his study of light and color by expressing his artistic energy through photography.

Seeking a less urban life style and "fresh air to breathe", in 1953, Wachtel moved his family to Atlantic City, NJ where he once again turned his attention to painting. Though he exhibited occasionally (Atlantic City art galleries, the Philadelphia Art Club, Pennsylvania Museum of Art and the Corcoran gallery), Wachtel seems to have generally avoided showing his work. Simon Wachtel, a chain smoker from his teens, died of cancer in Atlantic City in 1965. In 1966, Wanamaker's and the Fleishman Memorial Gallery both hosted retrospective exhibitions for the artist who had his first successes there a half century earlier.

Simon Wachtel's earliest work appears soundly grounded in the influences of academic impressionism and the plein air school of Pennsylvania painting. He admired Monet and would certainly have known the work of Schofield, Garber, Rosen, Redfield and others. Morning Sunlight No2, a model of impressionism was painted over the course of an entire summer, working for a short time each morning from a fixed location. He explored Buck's County, especially the Upper Black Eddy region (he even chose this location for his honeymoon in the summer of 1934) where he painted typical Pennsylvania scenes of woods, farm and canal in a loose and painterly sort of realism.

In the early 1930's, after winning commissions from the Works Progress Administration (W.P.A.), he began a series of industrial subjects done in the heroic mural style typical of the period, adopting a cool objectivity with less emphasis on brush work and more attention to color and mood. Though the locations are generally Philadelphia, Wachtel is not interested in recording place so much as symbol. His brooding Pharonic factories loom in mythic tribute to idle American might and depression era economics. This group of his work marks a departure from literal to psychological space and an eventual move towards abstractionism.

Various aspects of modernism which had long been present in his work became increasingly dominant in the 1950's. Wachtel was very heavily affected by and concerned with the arrival of the "atomic era". In 1946-47, as part of one of his government contracts, he painted a dramatic 10' x 40' mural on black velvet depicting the aftermath of the Hiroshima/Nagasaki bombings. Much of his work through the 1950's reflects the deep psychic impressions lingering from this project. "In Memoriam" is a prime example.

Also in the 1950's Wachtel returned to his interest in florals which was earlier demonstrated by Tiger Lillies. He created a series of Orchid Studies and various floral bouquets and arrangements. His Peppers 1 and 2 and several other Still Lifes were painted during this period Wachtel, though continually transforming and growing in his work, considered himself primarily a colorist and for a short time his work distilled to flat planes of overlapping color with only peripheral reference to landscape or figure as shown in the paintings Conference, Babel and The Egg and Eye.

In 1962, Anita, Wachtel's younger daughter died and Simon began to heavily reflect on life and death. His painting entered a new level of emotional expression and in his remaining years he produced a body of work dealing with spiritual evolution. These works are nonsectarian and deal with the universal plight of mankind.

A excerpt from the artist's writing about his own work may help to illustrate his motives. "Mr. Wachtel, a classicist in painting, is always seeking the best that tradition has contributed to the various schools of painting and is continually experimenting in his own works. With Mr. Wachtel the interpretation or transferring of the emotion is of paramount importance. The result may be in the traditional, abstract or a more personal improvisation. The completed painting should therefore lean on classicism for its form and try to retain universality in its content. With these ends in view a painter may seek high adventure in the realm of Art"

Simon Wachtel completed almost 100 paintings during his lifetime, some were sold or gifted to private collectors including the Corcoran Gallery and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The majority remain with his family in the United States and in New Zealand.

Most Recent Exhibits and auctions per Thomas McCormick Works of Art /Chicago.



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