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 Louis Michel Eilshemius  (1864 - 1941)

About: Louis Michel Eilshemius


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Lived/Active: New York/California/New Jersey      Known for: mod-naive views-nudes, marine

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BIOGRAPHY for Louis Eilshemius
1864 (Arlington, New Jersey)
1941 (New York City)

New York/California/New Jersey

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mod-naive views-nudes, marine

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Painters of Nudes
This biography from the Archives of AskART:

Louis Eilshemius was born to wealthy and socially prominent immigrant parents near Newark, New Jersey. 

His earliest paintings, reflecting the influence of Corot and Inness, placed him well within the context of contemporary American art.  He had his work accepted by the National Academy of Design in 1887 and 1888.  He seemed destined for glittering success.  This official recognition, apparently so promising, had to sustain him for the remainder of his active career.  His subsequent entries were rejected, and he continued to work for three decades without further encouragement.  The involuntary isolation ultimately destroyed him.

What  queered his career was a strain of fantasy; he introduced into his atmospheric pictures incidents of a naive sort - lubricious, melodramatic, somewhat wooden.  People laughed at them and eventually, he quit art.  He stopped painting in 1921.

A cranky, messy, bearded bachelor, he lived with a brother and an old housekeeper in the family's Manhattan brownstone.  The last twenty years of his life were devoted almost exclusively to barren eccentricities designed to promote himself.  In endless letters to the newspapers he ranted of his unjust fate. As the result of being struck by an automobile in 1932, he was confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his days. He became fodder for the journalists, providing better copy than they could have fabricated on their own.  Penniless, bitter and famous, he died of pneumonia on December 29, 1941.

Sources include:
Time Magazine, April 20. 1959
Architectural Digest

Written and compiled by Jean Ershler Schatz, artist and researcher from Laguna Woods, California.

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born near Newark, New Jersey, Louis Eilshemius was an eccentric artist with a vision of his own that conformed to no school or tradition of painting.  He referred to himself as the "Grand Parnassian and Transcendental Eagle of the Arts" (Falk).

He lived in Europe from 1873 to 1881, attended Cornell University and the Art Students League in New York, and from 1886 to 1887, the Academie Julian in Paris.  In 1888, he settled permanently in New York City but traveled to Europe and North Africa.  In 1894, he went to California and returned through Arizona, painting in Yuma, something he returned to do in 1901, likely his last Arizona visit.

He began as an Impressionist, obviously influenced by Edgar Degas, but his work changed according to Matthew Baigell and ignored "the logic of time, place, and even gravity" (Dictionary of American Art).  Ignored by the public, his work became increasingly private, simplified, and horrific in subject matter.  Lacking attention, he became defensive, declaring himself to be a superior genius and the mightiest intellect in the world.  In 1921, he stopped painting, but in the 1930s interest in his painting was aroused.

Matthew Baigell, Dictionary of American Art
Michael David Zellman, 300 Years of American Art
Peter Hastings Falk (ed.), Who Was Who in American Art

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Arlington, NJ on Feb. 4, 1864.  Eilshemius was a primitive romanticist.  Most of his career was spent in NYC; however, he was in southern California in 1889 and had a studio in Los Angeles in winter 1893-94.  He exhibited in the Armory Show of 1913 and after his first one-man show in NYC in 1920, he stopped painting.

In: CGA (Dawn Over Pacific, 1889); MM.
Edan Hughes, "Artists in California, 1786-1940"
WWWAA; Dictionary of American Painters, Sculptors & Engravers (Fielding, Mantle); NY Times, 12-30-1941 (obituary); Los Angeles Times, 5-10-1959.
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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