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 Kenneth L. Callahan  (1905 - 1986)

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Lived/Active: California/Washington      Known for: abstraction, modernist-leaning landscape, sculpture

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Ad Code: 3
Kenneth L Callahan
from Auction House Records.
"Time and Space"
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Spokane, Washington, in 1905, Kenneth Callahan was a self-taught painter and sculptor known for his abstractions based on natural forms of the Northwest region.  His designs were often based on cross-sections of local stones and other formations.  Some of his work from his "Voyages" series, showing automatist techniques, can be found at the Hallie Ford Museum in Salem, Oregon.

In 1927, he went to sea, and from 1929 was based in Seattle.  From 1930, he began making trips to Mexico, Central America, and then traveled to Europe in the 1950s.  From 1932 to 1946, he was a curator at the Seattle Art Museum and also was a visiting artist to numerous universities.

He taught privately and as a visiting artist at several institutes in the United States.  Among his commissions are murals in the Marine Hospital in Seattle, post offices in Centralia and Anacortes, Washington, and the Washington State Library in Olympia.  Callahan was a recipient of the Guggenheim Fellowship (1954).

He was a member of the Washington State Arts Commission and the Puget Sound Group. By 1926, he was exhibiting in San Francisco followed by exhibitions in Seattle, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Pennsylvania Academy, and the Corcoran Gallery.

His works can be found in collections at the Chicago Art Institute, University of Michigan, University of Nebraska, Washington State University, University of Washington, Seattle Art Museum, and the Portland Art Museum.

Sources include:
Conflicting birth dates appear in literature, however the artist himself confirmed 1905 as his birth year in his interview with for the Smithsonian Institution. (Submitted by Paul Petsoky)
Peter Hastings Falk (ed.), Who Was Who in American Art

This biography from the Archives of AskART:

The following was written and compiled by Jean Ershler Schatz, artist and researcher  from Laguna Woods, California:

Kenneth Callahan was born in Spokane, Washington on October 30, 1905.  At the age of sixteen he was a good enough realist to have a watercolor of the Seattle waterfront hung in a major exhibition.  Shortly afterward he gave up both local notoriety and his studies at the University of Washington to go to San Francisco, where between odd jobs he worked on his style, and tried his hand, without success, at commercial art.  He traveled to Mexico where he fell in love with the work of Orozco, Rivera and Tamayo.

Finally heading home again, he got a job opening crates at the Seattle Art Museum and rose to become curator. That job gave him twenty years of being able to spend his summers painting for himself.  It also gave him the opportunity to develop friendships with people like Morris Graves and Guy Anderson.

Sources include:
Who's Who in American Art, R.R. Bowker 1962
Time Magazine, October 3, 1955

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Spokane, Washington on Oct. 30, 1905. Callahan studied briefly at the University of Washington, but was primarily a self-taught artist.  He maintained a studio in the "Monkey Block" (now the Transamerica Pyramid) in San Francisco from the mid-1920s until returning to his native state in the early 1930s.  Upon joining the staff of the Seattle Art Museum in 1933, he was a curator until 1953.  He died in Seattle on May 8, 1986.

Member: Puget Sound Group; Group of 12.

Exh: SF, 1926 (1st solo); Seattle Art Inst., 1927; SFMA; GGIE, 1939; NY World's Fair, 1939.
Edan Hughes, "Artists in California, 1786-1940"
City Directory; Who's Who in American Art 1947; WSAA.
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.

Biography from Art of the Northwest:
Blending surrealism and abstract expressionism, Kenneth Callahan emerged as one of the Pacific Northwest's most important cultural figures in the 1930s. The artist made several trips down the west coast, stopping to capture the landscapes and people of California, Mexico, and Central America.

By 1932, Callahan was Curator of the Seattle Art Museum, a post he would hold for the next two decades.

Between 1935 and 1945, he was commissioned to paint several murals in Washington state, under President Roosevelt's Treasury Section of Fine Arts. Along with Mark Tobey (1890-1976), Guy Anderson (1906-1998), and Morris Graves (1910-2001), Callahan founded the Northwest School - a loose affiliation of artists, sharing a similar color palette and subject matter, operating out of the Seattle region in the 1930s and 40s.

He has exhibited across the country, from San Francisco to Chicago, Philadelphia to Washington DC. Today, his work can be found in the permanent collections of the Chicago Art Institute, Washington State University, University of Washington, Seattle Art Museum, and the Portland Art Museum, among others.

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