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Joseph Tomanek

 (1889 - 1974)
Joseph Tomanek was active/lived in Illinois, Indiana.  Joseph Tomanek is known for nude figure, floral still-life, religious paintings.

Joseph Tomanek

Biography from the Archives of askART

Biography photo for Joseph Tomanek

Joseph Tomanek, a painter active mainly in Indiana and Illinois, was born on a farm in  Straznice, Czechoslovakia (in Southeastern Moravia) on April 16, 1889 and died in 1974.  An old biography in The Palette and Chisel (June 1929) tells of Joseph carving his own violin out of pine wood, and he demonstrated some talent in music. First he studied the rudiments of art at the School of Design in Prague, then emigrated to America, partly to escape three years of military service, and arrived in Chicago in 1910.  His actual profession was interior designer but he took more art classes at the Art Institute of Chicago under a compatriot, Antonin Sterba (1875-1963), who had been trained in the Paris academies.  Albert Krehbiel and Karl Buehr were Tomanek's other teachers at the AIC. Between 1919 and 1931, Tomanek exhibited works at the Art Institute, including Cornfield, Bohemian Costume Study, Gypsy and From My Studio Window (Vanderpoel Art Association, Chicago).

Tomanek wrote about the difficulties he had when posing nude models in Chicago: "In Paris you can rent little garden studios and pose your models there in privacy.  Here, if I work out of doors, I have to pose the girls in bathing suits." (Paul Gilbert, Sunday Chicago Sun, 15 July 1945).  Reportedly Tomanek followed the old eclectic method of creating an ideal nude, combining the best features from various models.  This academic procedure goes back to seventeenth-century theorists Giovanni Bellori and AndrĂ© FĂ©libien, and was continued through the eighteenth century when neoclassical art theorist Anton Raphael Mengs made the analogy of bees collecting nectar from a variety of flowers. Besides nudes, Tomanek painted intimate landscapes, neo-Rococo garden scenes much like those of Frederick Ballard Williams, floral still-lives and murals in local churches.  By 1920 Tomanek was a member of the Bohemian Art Club; soon he joined the Association of Chicago Painters and Sculptors, the Chicago Gallery Association and the Palette and Chisel Club.  During the 1920s, thanks to three scholarships, Tomanek spent four years in Europe, which was one of the professional goals of many young American artists.

In 1938 Tomanek won the Logan Prize at the Art Institute of Chicago for Thoughts of the Future, a half-length nude strumming a guitar, which recalled the Salon days of Cabanel and Bouguereau for Peyton Boswell (Art Digest, 1 October 1938).  Tomanek was one of the artists enrolled in the Illinois Art Project, 1935-1943.  The Indianapolis Museum of Art has his painting called Milking Time.

C.L.J., "Joseph Tomanek, Painter of Murals," The Palette and Chisel 6 (June 1929): 1-2; Sparks, Esther. "A Biographical Dictionary of Painters and Sculptors in Illinois 1808-1945," Diss., Northwestern University, June 1971, p. 637.   

Submitted by Richard H. Love and Michael Preston Worley, Ph.D.    

Biography from the Archives of askART
Biography photo for Joseph Tomanek
Chicago area artist, Joseph Tomanek was best known for his paintings of nude figures against lush foliage or marine backgrounds. Of the difficulty of posing nudes in Chicago, he said, "In Paris you can rent little gardens studios and pose your models there in privacy. Here, if I work out of doors, I have to pose the girls in bathing suits. Take them to the forest preserves, and they complain about the mosquitos. Even on my studio roof I get no privacy. An airplane pilot spots you and swoops down to satisfy his curiosity, but at my summer home at Ogden Dunes, I have overcome these little difficulties." (Gilbert)

Often he used several models for one nude painting, one for the face, another for the feet and another for the body. His favorite model was his wife, a small brunette whom he met when she modeled at the Art Institute of Chicago.

He also painted floral still lives, and religious subjects of which many were painted for local Roman Catholic churches. One of his murals, 50 feet long, was installed at the altar of St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church in Forest Park. He was also a commercial artist of billboard advertisements.

Tomanek, the son of a carpenter, was born in Moravia. His family discouraged his art talent and wanted him to be a shoemaker. He studied in his homeland of Czechoslovakia at the School of Design in Prague. He emigrated to America around the turn of the century and arrived in Chicago in 1910 and worked as an interior decorator. He attended the Art Institute of Chicago and studied with Antonin Sterba. He also studied with Albert Krehbiel and K.A. Buehr.

He was a member of the Bohemian Artist Club, Association of Chicago Painters, and Sculptors, and the Chicago Gallery Association. His work is included in the collection of the Vanderpoel Art Association (Chicago). He exhibited from the 1910s-40s, including exhibitions at the Art Institute of Chicago and the Georgia Museum of Art.

Paul Gilbert, Sunday Chicago Sun, July 15, 1945
Peter Hastings Falk (Editor), Who Was Who in American Art

Joseph Tomanek's studio was located at 1436 West 18th Street in Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood.  He had a summer home in Ogden Dunes, Indiana and it was his intention to eventually retire to this retreat.  He came to Chicago in 1910 as a interior decorator and continued his studies at the Art Institute.  In 1936 he donated an oil painting 28"x36" entitled View from my Studio Window to the Vanderpoel Art Association. This view is looking eastward down 18th Street toward the intersection with Loomis Street. Vanderpoel Association lost contact with the artist after 1947.

Information submitted as a bulletin by Sidney Hamper, Vanderpoel Art Association

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About  Joseph Tomanek

Born:  1889 - Straznice, Czechoslovakia
Died:   1974
Known for:  nude figure, floral still-life, religious paintings

Essays referring to
Joseph Tomanek

Painters of Nudes