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 Louis Bassi Siegriest  (1899 - 1989)

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Lived/Active: California      Known for: modernist landscape, illustrator

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Ad Code: 2
Louis Bassi Siegriest
from Auction House Records.
White Houses, Danville
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
A commercial artist and fine-art painter whose styles ranged from Impressionism, Fauvism to Mixed-Media Abstraction, Louis Siegriest had a long, distinguished career including association in the 1920s with a California Bay Area group called the Society of Six.  Members rebelled against the prevalent sombre Tonalism of William Keith and the genteel Classicism of Arthur Mathews.

He was born to a father who drove the first horse-drawn streetcars in Oakland and then made a fortune in the heating oil business with acetylene gas machines for gaslights.  Louis lived his entire life in the family mansion where he was born in north Oakland and later raised his own family including a son, Lundy, who became a well-known artist.

His parents encouraged his talents, and at age fifteen, he enrolled at night in the California School of Arts and Crafts while attending high school during the day.  His early interest was cartooning, and he won a San Francisco Chronicle comic strip contest.

A good friend and classmate at the Arts and Crafts School was Bernard von Eichman, and together they attended the California School of Fine Arts on Nob Hill in San Francisco to study with Frank Van Sloun.  The boys later followed Van Sloun to his own school and studied with him until 1919 when he left for New York. Unlike other art teachers in that area, Van Sloun was of the Robert Henri, New York social-realist philosophy that artists had to listen to their own instincts and paint what seemed relevant to their lives, not what was fashionable in Europe.

Siegriest was fascinated by billboards and got a job with Foster and Kleiser, the biggest outdoor advertising firm in San Francisco.  In his work there he developed a bold, realist, and simple style.  But this commercial art venture did not seem to affect his fine art, which from the beginning was modernist with an undercurrent of playfulness and energy and experimentation with perspective and shapes.

About 1917, he began his association with the Society of Six led by Selden Gile and included William Clapp, Bernard von Eichman, Maurice Logan, and August Gay. The group, based in Oakland, focused on California scene subject matter, aggressive use of color, and a freedom of style rooted in Impressionism.

In the 1920s, while continuing this Society of Six association, he also did commercial art assignments in Seattle, Dallas, Chicago, and Milwaukee as well as for the San Francisco Chronicle.

For him, the 1930s Depression years were a time when he traveled in the Midwest and further East, and his palette darkened with industrial themes.  But he also discovered Taos, New Mexico where he did about one-hundred brush drawings on typewriter paper.  Unknown at the time was that his young son, Lundy, was making paper airplanes out of them and tossing them out of the car.

Returning to California, he worked in advertising for Maurice Logan and did poster work for the WPA.  In 1945, he became a full-time fine artist and from 1948 to 1951 taught at the Art Students League of San Francisco.  Poor eyesight caused him to stop painting in the 1970s.

His work is in the collections of the Oakland Museum, Stanford University Museum, and the University of Nevada, which houses several hundred of his paintings of Virginia City.

Nancy Boas, Society of Six
Edan Hughes, Artists in California, 1786-1940

Biography from William A. Karges Fine Art - Beverly Hills:
Louis Siegrist was a native of California, born in Oakland in 1899.  Siegriest studied at the local California College of Arts and Crafts, as well as at the California School of Fine Art in San Francisco.  As a young man he fell in to the painting group that would be known as the "Society of Six," a group of painters who rebelled against the somber tones prevalent in California art, preferring the palette of the French Fauvists.

The Six actively exhibited in Oakland through the 1920's before disbanding.  Unlike other members of the Six, Siegriest came from a very wealthy family.  He lived in his family's mansion throughout his life, raising his own children there.  He found occasional commercial work in the 20's and 30's, and taught at the San Francisco Art Students League from 1948-1951. In the later years of his life, his failing eyesight forced him to give up painting.

He died in Oakland in 1989.

** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at

Louis Siegriest is also mentioned in these AskART essays:
Impressionists Pre 1940
Society of Six
Taos Pre 1940
California Painters

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