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 Teall (La Verne Teall) Messer  (1897 - 1977)



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Lived/Active: California/New York/Illinois / France      Known for: abstract painting, lithography, sculpture, teaching

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BIOGRAPHY for Teall Messer
1897 (Dixon, Illinois)
1977 (Oakland, California)

California/New York/Illinois / France

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abstract painting, lithography, sculpture, teaching

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following information was submitted by Teall Messer, nephew of the artist:

(Laverne) Teall Messer

Born in Dixon Illinois in 1897, Teall Messer dropped the name Lavern as soon as he came "of age".  He went to New York to be an artist and intellectual.  He hung out with the playwrights of the time and ended up with an award from the Rockefellers to go to Paris and study painting.  This was in the 1920's.  He stayed for several years in Paris being the stereotypical American painter there.  He had contact with at least some of the famous painters and shared a studio with Alexander Calder.  One story was that he and Alexander were dating two French sisters.  The girls' mother told them to drop the Americans as they would never make much money.  That was true for Teall, not so for Calder.   He also knew Brancusi well enough to have a signed sketch dedicated "á Teall Messer avec amour".  He knew Gertrude Stein well enough to heartily dislike her, considering her a phony.

In France Teall married a member of the Byrd family of Virginia.  They were living in a chateau on the Loire when his wife had an appendix attack and died before they could get her to a hospital.  Teall was heartbroken and returned to the US.  

At some point Teall was Buckminster Fuller's personal secretary spending several years with him.  This may have been in New York and was perhaps the way Teall made contact with the Rockefellers.

Following a connection with his brother Lyle who was a mining engineer, Teall then came to California and worked in the cinnabar mines in Middletown in Lake County along with his second brother, Denny.

Teall must have served in WWI.  When the GI bill came in after WWII, he went to Stanford and received his MA in education. Teall was Phi Beta Kappa but didn't want to pay the $14 necessary to buy the key.  He built an International style house in Diamond Heights.

At some point when he was working in the Lake County mines he met and wooed Lynette Hass from Princeton NJ.  They were married and Teall came to San Francisco and worked as a high school English teacher.

Teall continued his art in his older age.  He converted to Jackson Pollack type drip painting on a join-them-if-you-can't-beat-them basis.  He had burned all his Paris paintings at one point after deciding he wasn't going to be another Picasso and maybe after his first wife died in France.  When his neighborhood became upscale after the mayor built a house there he formed the Diamond Heights Art League and had fun with that. Teall told one nephew that "It's all about the line" which may be true in most art.  He also said that hands are the most difficult part of painting a figure.

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Teall Messer was born in Illinois on Aug. 18, 1897.  Messer was a resident of San Francisco in the 1930s and active in the local art scene.  For 40 years he taught art in the San Francisco public schools.  He died in Oakland, CA on Dec. 5, 1977. 

Exh:  San Francisco Art Association, 1938; Golden Gate International Exposition, 1939. 
Edan Hughes, "Artists in California, 1786-1940"
Death Record.
Nearly 20,000 biographies can be found in Artists in California 1786-1940 by Edan Hughes and is available for sale ($150). For a full book description and order information please click here.

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