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 Emil Eugen Holzhauer  (1887 - 1986)

About: Emil Eugen Holzhauer


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Lived/Active: Georgia/Florida      Known for: genre, landscape and interiors painting, teaching

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BIOGRAPHY for Emil Holzhauer
1887 (Schwabisch-Gmund, Germany)


Often Known For
genre, landscape and interiors painting, teaching

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Schwabisch-Gmund, Germany, Emil Holzhauer became an avant-garde painter whose work is characterized by heavy lines filled with color and with rhythmic, harmonic space. His primary mediums were watercolor, oil, and casein, and in 1930, he earned the Logan Medal and Purchase prize at the 10th International Watercolor Exhibition in Chicago for his portrait, "Patricia." His work was heavily influenced by scenes from the South, and by the rising nationalism in the United States.

In Germany, he apprenticed in a silver and metalware factory where he learned design and modeling, and in the evenings, he studied art at the Staatliche Werkkunst Schule.

He arrived in New York in 1906 and with fellow students Edward Hopper, George Bellows, and Rockwell Kent, studied art with Robert Henri. The 1913 Armory Show combined with Henri's teaching led Holzhauer to adopt modernist elements of Expressionism, Fauvism and Social Realism. He was especially influenced by the expressive images of Cezanne, and the stylistic surprising canvases of Van Gogh.

He also taught art at the Chicago Art Institute from 1921 to 1942 and Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia from 1942 to 1953, and his years in Georgia were especially influential on his work. In 1953, he retired to Niceville, Florida where he taught until 1972.

His first solo exhibition was in 1915, and during his lifetime, he was included in over 75 group shows and many one-man exhibitions.

(From "The Fine Arts Trader," May 1998).

Biography from Charleston Renaissance Gallery:
EMIL HOLZHAUER (1887-1986)

Born in Schwabish-Gmund, Germany, Emil Holzhauer arrived in America in 1906—without prospects and unable to speak the language.  A century later, Holzhauer’s work is lauded as thoroughly American, in terms of its style, subject matter, and sensibility. Influenced most directly by American painters—especially his teachers Robert Henri and Homer Boss—Holzhauer created candid, distinctive interpretations of his adopted homeland, recording the American vernacular with an increasingly modernist aesthetic.

Drawn to picturing regional scenes of everyday life, Holzhauer favored working in watercolor and pastel, but also mastered oil. Among the locales he painted were places he lived and visited, including: upstate New York; Gloucester and Monhegan, Massachusetts; Florida; Maine; Canada; Mexico; Savannah and Macon, Georgia; Charleston, South Carolina; Asheville, North Carolina; and other settings in the American South, the region with which he is most closely associated.  In exploring these diverse environments, Holzhauer sought and portrayed highly varied subject matter, producing landscapes; figurative compositions; portraits and self-portraits; street and city views; and outdoor genre images.  Holzhauer’s oeuvre is dominated by scenes of local color, particularly town settings, populated with individuals—often the working poor and African Americans—going about routine activities

While Holzhauer’s style was firmly rooted in realism, his approach evolved as he was exposed to more modernist tendencies, which resulted in the streamlining of form and detail, and the use of more intense, expressive color. These changes were the consequence of the aesthetic influence of the European modernists, such as the simplified and geometricized forms evident in the art of Paul Cézanne and the heightened coloration in the canvases of Vincent van Gogh. By the late 1920s, Holzhauer was often exhibiting watercolors, and by the early 1930s, his reputation solidified as he came to be identified with depicting forthright images of the American scene.

Holzhauer spent many years in residence in the South, beginning in 1940, when he was invited to teach at the Asheville School for Boys in Asheville, North Carolina. Two years later, he became a professor of art at Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia, where he remained until he retired to Niceville, Florida in 1953. These years coincide with the artist’s turn to landscape compositions. His landscapes are usually figureless, relying on the placement of buildings within a landscape for structure and visual interest; form and color are the language in which he expresses meaning.

Conversely, many of Holzhauer’s images are populated with a host of unidealized human subjects, usually African-Americans gathering to socialize or work. Often showing an integrated view of the figures set within the context of buildings or residences, these outdoor genre scenes offer an unvarnished glimpse into the day-to-day life of the less privileged working class. This philosophy is clearly at play in Holzhauer’s portraits and figurative compositions as well. Steadfast and honest, these characterizations do not appear posed or artificial, but instead record a moment in the lives of these subjects—the antithesis of society portraiture produced by such artists as John Singer Sargent.

At other times, Holzhauer’s creativity was stirred simply by the dynamic angles and intersections found in the horizontal and vertical formations of architecture.

In addition to drawing on his immediate environment, Holzhauer regularly revisited subjects he had previously undertaken, sometimes reinterpreting or recreating themes in other media.

A signature simplicity remained a distinguishing feature of Holzhauer’s technique and is manifested in the artist’s Southern works up through the 1950s. As his aesthetic evolved, Holzhauer’s work exhibits brighter tonalities, eliminates unnecessary detail, and also compresses and flattens spatial planes, creating an effect of rhythmic patterning.

After retiring to the Florida Panhandle in 1953, Holzhauer continued to paint and teach until the late 1960s when failing eyesight precluded him from artistic pursuits. The New York Times critic Edward Alden Jewell observed of Holzhauer’s mature work that the artist had attained a new level of expression, though he found it “hard to determine precisely what has happened. But in the process of change a sense of greatly augmented inner strength emerges, to challenge the visitor’s attention and stir a quiet response.” Valerie Ann Leeds

This essay is copyrighted by the Charleston Renaissance Gallery and may not be reproduced or transmitted without written permission from Hicklin Galleries, LLC.

Biography from The Johnson Collection:
Emil Holzhauer was born on January 21, 1887 in Schwabisch-Gmund, Germany. In 1906, he moved to New York City without a job, money, or any knowledge of the English language. He initially worked in manufacturing plants to support himself and save money for art instruction. After settling into his adopted city, Holzhauer registered for night classes at the New York School of Art in 1909 where he studied with Robert Henri. Henri, a Social Realist, was a passionate and energetic teacher. He stressed the importance of painting from a personal point of view, and urged his students to develop a uniquely American art, one based on their own individual experiences and perspectives. Henri remained an inspiration for Holzhauer throughout his career and the two men became close friends.

In 1913 Holzhauer attended the famed Armory Show and was inspired by the work of the American and European modernists. He held his first solo exhibition in 1915, and exhibited regularly in New York, both individually and as part of a group, over the next ten years. In the summer of 1932 he began to teach art at a summer camp in upstate New York and found teaching to be a rewarding and gratifying experience. In 1938 he briefly taught at a junior college in New York State, before moving south to Asheville, North Carolina. In 1942, he became an art professor at Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia.

Throughout the thirties Holzhauer became identified with the American Scene movement in art, and the scenes that he painted while in the South are among his best known. The subjects were often homes and neighborhoods of the working class. The images are quiet glances into a private world. He often chose narrow side streets or back alleys and portrayed the dilapidated buildings in a simple non-judgmental way. He neither idealized his subject nor romanticized it, but rather found beauty in simple scenes from daily life. During the late forties and into the fifties, Holzhauer began to move into a more expressive and less realistic style. The color became more intense and less true to nature, and his figures became more stylized

In 1953, Holzhauer retired from his professorship at Wesleyan. He and his wife moved to Florida where he held several exhibitions. He continued to travel and paint until 1972 when his eyesight began to fail. Holzhauer died just before his hundredth birthday in 1986.

The Johnson Collection, Spartanburg, South Carolina

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