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 Sydney Glen Fossum  (1909 - 1978)

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Lived/Active: Minnesota/California/South Dakota      Known for: landscape and regional scene painting, illustrator

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Sydney Glen Fossum
An example of work by Sydney Glen Fossum
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
These Notes from AskART represent the beginning of a possible future biography for this artist. Please click here if you wish to help in its development:
Born in South Dakota on Nov. 11, 1909.  Died in San Francisco, CA on Feb. 22, 1978.
Edan Hughes, "Artists in California, 1786-1940"
Death Records
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 Vern Carver & Beard Art Galleries:
Sydney Fossum earned his BFA at the Minneapolis School of Art and also studied in Mexico.  Fossum took part in several artist's organizations and was Director of the Duluth Art Center from 1960 to 1962.

Syndey Fossum exhibited in several shows from the 1930s to until the 1960s.  In addition, Fossum taught at the Minneapolis School of art in the 1950s.

Later in his career he relocated to California.

Fossum's work is part of the collections of the University of Minnesota, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Walker Art Center, the Des Moines Art Center and the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Biography from Fine Arts Collection, Luther College:
Sydney Glen Fossum was born November 18, 1909, in Aberdeen, South Dakota, to George F. Fossum, an architect, whose father had emigrated from Christiania (Oslo) in 1868. His mother, Olava Korsedahl, had come to the area from Stranden, near Alesund, Norway, as a child. Fossum received his BFA at the Minneapolis School of Art. He also studied at the Art Student League in New York City and the University of Michoacana in Mexico.

Fossum was active as an artist, illustrator, teacher and also political and social radical, especially in the 1930’s. He taught at the Minneapolis Art Center in 1934 and again in 1945-1950, and later at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, MN. In 1941, he taught at the Duluth Art Center and was director there from 1960-1962. He also taught at the University of Washington, Seattle, WA, 1950-1955, and the Des Moines Art Center, Des Moines, IA during summers, 1953-1957.

He was active in the Minnesota Artist’s Union of which he was a founder. He also held high offices in the Minnesota Artists Association and Artists Equity. In addition, he was heavily involved in the federal art programs, such as the Public Works of Art Project (PWAP), from 1933 to 1943. He defied regulations in these programs resulting in an indictment which was ultimately dropped and for accepting payment for work which was submitted but had been done outside the period for which payment was claimed. In the latter case, he was acquitted after bringing evidence that what he did was common practice in the program. He served as artist for the Minneapolis Civil Defense Council in 1942 and was in the army in France and Germany, 1943-1945. He lived in Minnesota until the 1970’s when he moved to California. He died in San Francisco, CA, February 23, 1978, and his ashes were interred in the family plot in Aberdeen, SD. He and his wife, Bunny, had no children.

Fossum exhibited frequently in Minnesota but in other states as well. Since he was equally adept in oils, watercolors, drawings, and prints, he often exhibited and received awards in multiple categories. His works are represented in the Museum of Modern Art, NY; the Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, WA; the Newark Museum, Newark, NJ; the Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha, NE; the Des Moines Art Center, Des Moines, IA; and, in Minneapolis at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, the Walker, and the Weisman Museum of Art at the University of Minnesota. His illustrations appeared in several books and magazines during the course of his career. Most recently in 2000, a work by Fossum was included in the exhibit, “Paintings by Minnesota Norwegians, 1870-1970” sponsored by the Minnesota Historical Society at the James J. Hill House in St. Paul, MN.

Fossum is represented by a file in the Manuscript Collections of the Archives of American Art. His papers are also in the archives of the Minnesota Historical Society and in the artists’ files of the Minneapolis Public Library, Special Collections. He was interviewed as part of the oral history project to interview Minnesota artists active in WPA art projects (Friends of the Minneapolis Public Library, 1974-1977).

There are two works by Fossum in the Fine Arts Collection, both serigraphs. These were purchased as a result of the College’s Fine Arts Festivals which were held in the late 1950’s and 1960’s. “Power Plant” (1953) was purchased in 1957 and “Corner Grocery” (1961) was purchased in 1961.

Ref: Syd Fossum: A Memorial (1909-1978). Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota, 1978; American Printmakers, 1880-1945: An Index to Reproductions and Biocritical Information. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1993; Nelson, Marion. Paintings by Minnesotans of Norwegian Background, 1870-1970. Northfield, MN: Norwegian-American Historical Association, 2000.

Written and submitted by Jane Kemp
Professor; Circulation-Special Collections Librarian
Supervisor, Fine Arts Collection (
Luther College
Decorah, IA 52101

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