|This biography from the Archives of AskART:|
|An abstract painter, Bernard von Eichman was a prominent figure in the
Bay Area of California during much of the 20th century. He was
known as "Red" for his fiery red hair and volatile disposition which,
combined with his stocky build, led him into many combative situations.|
was a friend and classmate of artist Louis Siegriest in Oakland, and
their friendship became a major factor in the cohesiveness of the
Society of Six, artists around Selden Gile who focused on use of bright
colors and abstract forms and rebelled against the prevalent
conservative styles of William Keith and Arthur Mathews. Other
members of the Society in addition to Gile and Siegriest were William
Clapp, Maurice Logan, and August Gay.
Von Eichman was born in
San Francisco, and later said he was inspired to paint by an aunt who
was a china painter. From the time he was ten years old he
allegedly attended art school, but patching together the truth of his
childhood is difficult because it was so unhappy that he later made up
stories to finesse the truth. He was abandoned by his father when
he was age twelve, and he, his mother and brother were destitute.
He took to begging on the streets and left school at age thirteen to
work as a bricklayer.
In 1915, he managed to enroll in the
California School of Arts and Crafts in Berkeley and became friends
with Siegriest. They decided to follow their favorite teacher
Frank Van Sloun to the California School of Fine Arts in San
Francisco. From Van Sloun, a devotee of Robert Henri and the
Social Realist painters in New York, they received encouragement to
paint from their own experience and not copy prevalent styles from
Reportedly von Eichman was Van Sloun's prize pupil who
was much at ease with technique and had a distinctive modernist
style. He was also more worldly than his classmates because he
earned money as a teenager by shipping out on merchant vessels and
traveling to the East Coast and the Orient.
In New York, he
saw work by Kandinsky, Manet, Picasso, Braque, and other European
modernists that made a marked impression on his own work. From
1921 to 1922, he was in China and upon his return became associated
with the Society of Six that exhibited at the Oakland Art Gallery, now
part of the Oakland Museum.
In the 1930s, he chose to support
his family over pursuing a fine-art career and, having a distinguished
reputation in California moved to New York as an unknown to earn money
from doing freelance window displays. He also painted in the
style of the Ash Can School of Henri but was overwhelmed and subdued by
the varieties of art experimentation he observed.
War II, he lived again in California and worked in the Vallejo
shipyards, and in 1959 moved to Monterey. Shortly before his
death from cancer, he burned most of his work, which seemed appropriate
to his life-long fascination with fires. He had loved working
with ships furnaces, reportedly started fires as a child, and once, to
"entertain" his friends in Oakland, set a small studio fire.
His work is in the collection of the Oakland Museum.
Nancy Boas, Society of Six
Edan Hughes, Artists in California, 1786-1940
|Biography from AV Fine Arts:|
could read a biography of Bernard Von Eichman without a feeling of
sorrow for what might have been. In 1928, an article about him in the Oakland Times noted: "... This flame-haired young man, who looks more
like a hard-fisted seaman or a baseball player than anything else, has
done something with his brushes and palette and tubes of paint that has
set not only bay artists, but a good many innocent bystanders by the
ears. And some of them are saying that here in the modern, mundane
world a genius has sprung forth who may single-handed put California on
the map in an important, artistic way. ...|
"When he left his
first wife, and California, for New York in 1928, he was a
near-celebrity. But after arriving in New York and comparing his talent
to that of the local artists, he came to the wrong conclusion that he
fell far short. He would show up at the galleries with his work, but
would usually leave before the gallery owners could view his paintings.
In the mid 30s he remarried, but his wife convinced him that his
artwork was not very good. So, except for a short period in the 1960s,
he stopped painting altogether, and worked to support his family during
the last 35 years of his life.
He visited Louis Siegriest in
1942, after his return from New York, but Siegriest never saw Von
Eichman again after that (to Siegriest's great disappointment). Von
Eichman's son commented that his father rarely mentioned his artistic
past, and never mentioned his connection to the Society of Six. As far
as his children knew, he'd been a worker at the Vallejo shipyards, a
union house painter, a house renovator, and amateur photographer most
of his adult life. "It's a shame that he is gone, because no one really
took an interest in anything he did. No one even said, "Gee Dad, great
Von Eichman burned most of his artwork two years
before he died because he was tired of carrying it around from place to
He died of cancer in 1970, in Santa Rosa, California.
|Biography from William A. Karges Fine Art - Beverly Hills:|
|Bernard Von Eichman was born in San Francisco in 1899, where he
suffered a difficult childhood. He managed to enroll in the
California College of Arts & Crafts in 1915, where he met Louis
Siegriest with whom he would later exhibit as a member of the “Society
of Six.” |
From 1918-1930, Von Eichman exhibited his bright modernist works with
the Six, a group opposed to the dominant Tonalism that was popular in
the Bay Area. Von Eichman was an established artist in the 1930’s
when he left for relative obscurity in New York, where he lived until
the onset of WW II.
Returning to California, he was a resident of San Francisco and
Monterey until his death in 1970, shortly before which he burned a
great portion of his life’s work.
|** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at registrar@AskART.com.|
Bernard Von Eichman is also mentioned in these AskART essays:
Impressionists Pre 1940
Society of Six