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 Erle (Earle) Loran  (1905 - 1999)

About: Erle (Earle) Loran


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Lived/Active: California/New York/Minnesota / France      Known for: modernist urban-coast views and geometric painting

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BIOGRAPHY for Erle Loran
1905 (Minneapolis, Minnesota)
1999 (Berkeley, California)

California/New York/Minnesota / France

Self portrait - Erle Loran - Self Portrait

Often Known For
modernist urban-coast views and geometric painting

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Erle Loran was born in 1905 in Minneapolis, Minnesota on October 3, 1905. After graduating from the University of Minnesota, Loran studied at the Minneapolis School of Art under direction of Cameron Booth. His talent was recognized early when in 1926, he won the Paris Prize, which provided him the benefit of a traveling scholarship to Europe where he lived in the studio of Paul Cézanne. This exposure provided much influence to Loran's life, where he saw the works of Picasso and other European modernists.

But, it was Cézanne's work that motivated him. His fascination with Cézanne led him on a three-year odyssey through Cézanne country where Loran painted and photographed the countryside around Aix en Provence. It would be this experience that formed the foundation for Loran's 1943 book, "Cezannes' Composition". After returning from Europe, he exhibited extensively. In 1936, he moved to California where be began his long teaching career in the art department of the University of California, Berkeley. It would also be during this period that Loran would associate himself with modernist Hans Hoffman. Loran served as the department's chair in the early 1950s, and was awarded a University Citation upon retirement in 1973.

His early paintings include lyrical abstractions in primary colors; however, his style has constantly changed with the times. Watercolor was Loran's medium of choice because it dried fast and was lighter to transport to his often-remote plein air locations, such as the ghost towns of California and Nevada. His landscapes, often to include a building or structure, were clean, fresh, and spontaneous. A sample of his works, 'Refined Oil Dock', 1941, is a delightful period piece showing an East Bay refinery with it's brick buildings and shacks of an oil company silhouetted against the Golden Gate Bridge.

In the 1940s, as the war in the Pacific intensified along with domestic tensions, Loran's work transitioned from plein-air painting to studio work. During this period, landscape painters were occasionally seen as suspicious figures and sometimes mistaken for spies. Loran had such an experience when an armed soldier detained him. Shortly thereafter he decided to focus his painting on abstraction.

In the late 1960s, his work became a fusing of Op, Pop, and Hard Edge. From this he moved to figurative painting and later to geometric designs and symbols.

In 1960, while in New York City, Loran had further study with Hans Hoffmann who brought European modernist philosophy and techniques to the United States.

Among Loran's many exhibitions were in 1924 at the Minnesota State Fair; the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, 1933; the Rockefeller Center, 1935; Oakland Art Gallery, 1936-1946; the San Francisco Art Museum annuals from 1936; the Golden Gate International Exposition of 1939; California Palace of the Legion of Honor, 1945; California Watercolor Society, 1947, among many others. His works can be seen at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Denver Museum, the University of Minnesota, the Santa Barbara Museum, and the International Business Machines (IBM) Corporation.

Afflicted with a visual impairment, Erle Loran continued to paint until about a year before his death. He died in Berkeley, California on May 13, 1999 at the age of 93.

Information on the biography above is based on writings from the book, "Artists in California, 1786-1940, II", by Edan Milton Hughes, and "The Plein Air Scene", by Sarah Beserra.

Biography from Williams American Art Galleries:
Erle Loran was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1905.  He attended the University of Minnesota for a while before studying at the Minneapolis School of Art, under Cameron Booth, and graduated in 1926.

Loran was awarded a traveling scholarship from the Chaloner Foundation (Paris Prize) after graduation and spent the next four years in Europe, living in Cézanne’s studio. Loran had always been fascinated by the work of the artist Paul Cézanne, and it motivated him throughout his life both in his painting and his writing.  He would later pen several books and articles based on his time spent in what was once Cézanne’s world.

Once he returned home, Loran moved to California and began not only painting and continuing his art career, but also took up teaching at the University of California, Berkeley.  He served as chairman of the art department from 1952-56 and continued teaching there until his retirement in 1973, when he was awarded a University Citation. Berkeley once again awarded Loran, this time in 1981, declaring him an Emeritus Professor.

During the 1940s, Loran belonged to a group of some twenty artists that produced lithographs for the “Chronicle Contemporary Graphics” project.  Around the same time he published two books (one of which was the successful Cézanne Composition) and two articles in art magazines the following decade.

By the late 1960s Loran had changed focus and began painting more abstract images, fusing together Op Art, Pop Art and Hard Edge.  Perhaps his new direction was influenced by his time spent in New York learning under the artist Hans Hoffman, an artist from Europe who was heavily interested in bringing modern European techniques and philosophies to America.

Loran was eventually hindered by visual impairment, but continued painting until about a year before his death. He passed away in Berkeley, California in 1999.

Biography from Carlson Gallery:
Post War California artist, Erle Loran studied at the University of Minnesota; Minneapolis School of Art.  He earned a traveling scholarship to study in Europe, and taught at the University of California, Berkeley, 1936-1970's.

Solo Exhibitions: San Francisco Museum of Art, 1936, 1939, 1944, 1952; Santa Barbara Museum of Art, 1947; Pasadena Museum of Art, 1947; de Young Museum, 1949, 1954.

David J Carlson, Carlson Gallery, California. Carlson's specialty is Post-World War II California artists, and he is preparing a catalogue for a 2004 traveling exhibition of these artists to several California museums.

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