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 Edward Hagedorn  (1902 - 1982)

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Lived/Active: California      Known for: mod-naive figure painting, nudes, etchings

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Edward Hagedorn
An example of work by Edward Hagedorn
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This biography from the Archives of AskART:

Painter and etcher, Edward Hagedorn was born in Oakland, California on January 26, 1902.  Hagedorn's mother died at childbirth, and he was raised by his maternal grandmother.  During the 1920s he worked out of a studio in the old Montgomery Block of San Francisco and in the 1930s was employed by the Works Progress Administration.  A lifelong resident of the San Francisco Bay area, the latter part of his life was spent in Berkeley where he maintained a studio-residence at 2436 Woolsey Street until his death on Dec. 14, 1982.  As well as oils and etchings, Hagedorn did many pencil and charcoal drawings of nudes.

Exhibited: San Francisco Art Association annual, 1925; Oakland Art Gallery, 1927; California Palace of the Legion of Honor.

Works held: Oakland Museum.

Marilyn Pink Master Prints and Drawings

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in San Francisco, CA on Jan. 26, 1902. After his studies at the CSFA, Hagedorn maintained a studio in the old “Monkey Block” (now the Transamerica Pyramid) during the 1920s and 1930s. The WPA provided much of his income during the Depression. A lifelong resident of the San Francisco Bay area, the latter part of his life was spent in Berkeley where he had a studio-home until his death on Dec. 14, 1982. Most of Hagedorn's oils, watercolors, etchings, and drawings are of nudes. Exh: SFAA, 1925-29; Society of American Etchers, 1925-49; Oakland Art Gallery, 1927; CPLH, 1948; De Young Museum, 1995; UC Berkeley, 1996. In: Oakland Museum.
Edan Hughes, "Artists in California, 1786-1940"
City Directory; Death record.
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 Denenberg Fine Arts, Inc.:

Despite Edward Hagedorn's rejection of commercial opportunity, he achieved recognition in his lifetime in a number of interesting ways:  Galka Scheyer offered to exhibit his work, and one of his drawings in Scheyer's generous bequest was on exhibition next to a Picasso oil and a Rivera gouache in the major "Blue Four/Galka Scheyer Collection" show at the Norton Simon Museum; the Scheyer donation included works by Archipenko, Dix, Feininger, Jawlensky, Kandinsky, Kirchner, Klee, Kokoschka, Leger, Lissitsky, Marcoussis, Marc, Moholy-Nagy, Nolde, Schmidt-Rotluff, Schwitters, and Schlemmer.

Hagedorn was an active member of the Society of American Etchers and entered print competitions at the Brooklyn Museum and the Pennsylvania Academy.  His graphic work was exhibited from 1925 to 1949 in the print rooms of major museums and elsewhere, including the Art Institute of Chicago, Philadelphia Art Alliance, Seattle Art Museum, Buffalo Print Club, Los Angeles Foundation of Western Art, the Philadelphia Print Club, America in the War, the San Francisco Art Association from 1935 through 1944, the Brooklyn Museum and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.

He participated prolifically in the WPA. The  San Francisco art critic, Alfred Frankenstein, wrote of him:  "Hagedorn is the finest draughtsman I ever knew."

Hagedorn's work has been acquired by many private collectors, and a number of museums including: Brooklyn Museum of Art, Getty Center for the Study of American Art, History National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Chicago Art Institute, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Duke University Museum, Huntington Museum, San Diego Museum of Art, University of Minnesota Museum of Art, The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, England.

Hagedorn's work is illustrated in color and his biographical details included in Paul Karlstrom's ground-breaking book, America at the Edge: California Modernism, 1900-1950 published by the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, the Archives of American Art, and the University of California Press.

The artist’s work has been acquired by and toured in the National Museum of American Art exhibition of American monotypes in 1996, curated by Joann Moser, author of a fully illustrated catalog.  Two large watercolor landscapes by the artist were shown in the De Young Museum Centennial exhibition of California. landscapes in 1995.

Solo exhibitions have been held at a number of galleries and museums in the United States and abroad, including Salisbury State University Museum, Maryland/Winter of 1996, and a major print retrospective at the University Museum, University of California, Berkeley, July-September, 1996. A first monograph on the artist is in preparation, to be published in conjunction with a touring museum retrospective.

The estate is represented by Denenberg Fine Arts, Inc., West Hollywood, CA.

Edward Hagedorn
Rediscovered California Modernist
Stuart Denenberg
President, Denenberg Fine Arts, Inc.

“I haven’t painted anything for years, and have only one or two nudes, painted a long time ago, for which I feel I could ask $100, but I have a lot of watercolors and prints of various subjects.”

Hagedorn, response to San Francisco Art Association request for aid in sale of war bonds, 6/30/44

I first encountered Hagedorn’s art in 1983 when our gallery was asked to consider the purchase of a dozen cardboard cartons brimming with works on paper, saved from destruction after the artist's death as his Berkeley home was being emptied for sale. Upon examining this wealth of material, my wife and partner, Beverly Denenberg and I were intrigued--and puzzled-- our initial impression was that of a kaleidoscope of styles, works so richly varied that they evoked the fable of Five Blind Men Describing an Elephant. (The first man, grabbing the elephant’s leg described the beast as “a column too large to embrace with both arms”; the second, feeling its side, reported “it is like the wall of a barn;” three others described the true nature of the elephant by its tail, trunk, and tusks.)

Born in Berkeley, California, Edward Hagedorn (1902-1982) was legally adopted and raised by his maternal grandmother and aunt; his mother had died giving birth. In 1927, his father, a severe Prussian, disowned him for exhibiting a painting of a female nude at the Oakland Museum, his first public showing.* After briefly attending the San Francisco School of Fine Arts as early as age 16, Hagedorn and his longtime friend Paul Carey opened a studio together in the so-called "Monkey Block" of Montgomery Street, a haven for such artists and other bohemians as John Atherton, Jacques Schnier,DFA 597 & Ruth Cravath. In the late 1930s an inheritance from his grandmother and aunt made him increasingly independent, and he seems to have withdrawn to the seclusion of his studio/residence at 2436 Woolsey Street in Berkeley, where he died in 1982.

After examining the material at length, we discovered an artist who moved confidently from expressionism to lyricism to surrealism, from protest against war to celebration of the sensuality of women. His pictures were executed in every conceivable medium that paper allows: original drawings in watercolor, tempera, pastel, graphite, ink, and gold-point, as well as a super-abundance of large to tiny original graphics--etchings, engravings, lithographs, woodcuts, lithographs, and linocuts, many in ‘editions’ of only two or three proofs. Hagedorn’s ambition, originality, personal complexity, and visual imaginings resulted in an astonishing range of unforgettable images executed exclusively on paper. In these diverse pictures, reminiscent of such artists as Jawlensky, Ensor, Kirchner, Nolde, Derain, Picasso and Matisse, it is remarkable that, ultimately, they do not feel derivative--recalling Picasso’s advice: “good artists copy, great artists steal.”

The artist’s repertoire of aesthetic approaches assumed increasingly sharper focus as we continued our effort to understand what was essentially a lost body of early 20th century modernist American art. Much of the work may be understood as a series of distinct themes in sets of elaborate variations. In his seriality and thematic consistency, one thinks of Alexei Jawlensky, the supreme ‘ringer of changes’ on a single theme--the abstracted head or landscape representing a multitude of emotions in a rich play of color equivalents. Hagedorn directly experienced Jawlensky’s art, one of his central influences, through personal acquaintance with Galka Scheyer and her Blue Four programs of exhibitions in Northern California, beginning in Oakland as early as 1926.* In fact, Scheyer offered to exhibit his work, an offer he emphatically refused.

One of Hagedorn’s five works* in Scheyer's generous bequest* was on exhibition next to a Picasso oil and a Diego Rivera gouache in the "Blue Four/Galka Scheyer Collection" at the Norton Simon Museum, 2002. The exhibition also included works by Archipenko, Dix, Feininger, Jawlensky, Kandinsky, Kirchner, Klee, Kokoschka, Leger, Lissitsky, Marcoussis, Marc, Moholy-Nagy, Nolde, Schmidt-Rotluff, Schwitters, and Schlemmer. For all his avant-gardism, however, in a series of amusing graphite drawings from the 1920sEH 1027and brightly colored, cartoon-like watercolors from the 1940s,EH 1319 Hagedorn showed broadly mocking disdain for the work of Wassily Kandinsky, the only completely abstract artist of the Blue Four.

An extraordinary series of Hagedorn’s expressionist monotypes, executed circa 1927-29 in glowing oil colors on thin parchment paper depict groups of crowded, distorted, and aggressive figures. Two of these works were acquired by the National Museum of American Art, and included in Dr. Joann Moser’s landmark exhibition and accompanying publication on the monotype:EH 1010

"The artist whose nude had been rejected by (William) Clapp [in 1925] was the young Edward Hagedorn. He had briefly attended the San Francisco School of Fine Arts in the early 1920's, but the greatest influence on his work was the 1926 exhibition at the Oakland Civic Art Museum of the work of the European artists known as the "Blue Four" (Paul Klee,* Lyonel Feininger, Alexei Jawlensky,* and Wassily Kandinsky), curated by Galka Scheyer. An artist of independent means, Hagedorn could afford to work as he wished. Adapting the expressionistic color and form of Jawlensky and Kandinsky* to a distinctive personal idiom, Hagedorn created paintings, gouaches, drawings, etchings, relief prints, and lithographs, and during the late 1920's completed a powerful body of boldly conceived and executed monotypes, quite unlike anything done in the medium until that time. Painting with thick, saturated colors, Hagedorn created dynamic abstract compositions suggesting crowds, distorted heads, shouting mouths, and glaring eyes, frequently bounded by thick, black outlines. He printed them on translucent paper relatively large in scale--some measure 11 x 15 inches--and exhibited his work in group shows in the late 1920's and 1930's. In spite of the strong differences in the work of Hagedorn and (William) Clapp, their monotypes were often shown together because they were considered modernist in comparison to the more conservative work of most California artists of the time....Despite Galka Scheyer's promotion of the "Blue Four," Expressionism had few adherents in California."
By permission--Dr. Joann Moser, Singular Impressions, The Monotype in America, p. 111, ill., pl. 116, p. 110, National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington and London, 1997

Hagedorn’s entire range of images insists on eidetic registration: skeletons, ferocious yet somehow endearing, printed in deep black ink on off-white paper, march across Lilliputian landscapes of grim disorder and destruction; comets and volcanoes explode in fauvist colors, their other-worldly fluorescent temperas framed in black; nude female figures, exquisitely refined pen and ink, or graphite line drawings, are as economical in their means as Matisse or the neo-classical drawings of Picasso. In these drawings of nudes Hagedorn occasionally places a lyrical splash of watercolor or pastel reminiscent of Schiele. Among his most lyrical works of the 1920s is a series of rhythmically abstracted watercolor and ink views of Golden Gate Park, drawn in a syncretic style evoking the sensual quasi-geometries of Balthus, Derain, and early Mondrian.EH 322

Kenneth Rexroth, the poet and critic, asked his friend Hagedorn to illustrate his translation from the French of “Fourteen Poems” by O.V. Milosz.EH 174.tif (Czeslaw Mi_osz, the Nobel laureate poet, lived in Berkeley, and must have known both Rexroth and Hagedorn; he was a distant cousin and student of O.V. Milosz.) Hagedorn was described by Rexroth, as follows:

The rest of the painting in the city [San Francisco] was conventional, provincial, and homeopathically diluted Post-Impressionism. It resembled nothing so much as Russian painting that would proliferate under Stalin, except for the work of one man, a tall, thin, somber individual with a deep voice and a face like an ascetic Medieval monk—Edward Hagedorn. He was perhaps the finest draftsman I have ever known, and if he was influenced by anybody, it was Paul Klee. But his work was completely original, representational surrealism. He worked all day, every day, and drew from the model in life-class clubs at night. I found his painting and even more his drawings unlike anybody else’s, and sent photographs of them to Eugene Jolas for reproduction in transition. When Hagedorn discovered this, he cabled Jolas forbidding him to use the pictures and didn’t speak to me for several years. Later he was to be the lover, several years apart, of both [my first wife] Andrée and my second wife, Marie.”
Kenneth Rexroth, An Autobiographical Novel, New Directions, 1964, Edited by Linda Hamalian

A ground-breaking retrospective exhibition in 1996 at the University Museum, Berkeley, curated by then Director, Dr. James Christen Steward, featured the artist’s powerful anti-war prints and drawings of the 1930s, a series that approaches in sheer number, scale, and graphic force two great masters of anti-war subjects in the history of printmaking—Goya, in Los Desastres de la Guerra, and Otto Dix, in Das Krieg. In a well attended lecture at the Berkeley Art Museum, print expert Robert Conway further contextualized native son Hagedorn in the traditions of early 20th century expressionist figuration—relating his work to that of Otto Dix, Kathe Kollwitz, and Alfred Rethel, as well as to the work of 16th century German artists Hans Holbein, Albrecht Durer and others:

“When he released his powerful imagination within a framework of influence and tradition, most significantly that of the Dance of Death as revived by the German Expressionists, Edward Hagedorn created images worth our attention. The best of these, YOU!, *c. 1930 deserves to become an icon of the Twentieth Century Totentanz for its brilliant distortion of scale and perspective, and confrontational cropping of the image, as well as for its sardonic and telling distortion of its source, James Montgomery Flagg's ubiquitous recruiting poster, I WANT YOU, 1917.” *
Robert Conway, former Director, Associated American Artists Gallery; Founder, “Without Walls”

The poster, originally published as the cover for the July 6, 1916, issue of Leslie's Weekly with the title "What Are You Doing for Preparedness?" went on to become--according to its creator, James Montgomery Flagg (1877-1960)--"the most famous poster in the world." Over four million copies were printed between 1917 and 1918, as the United States entered World War I and began to send troops and materiel into action.

In a category by itself stands a masterful group of large, surrealist, mixed media “landscapes” dominated by isolated, monumental, and rather enigmatic forms based on female organs. Regarding acquisition of one of the seriesEH 1072 by the Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Art, Curator Emeritus Robert Flynn Johnson has said, “This drawing would have to be included in an exhibition of the 100 greatest drawings in our collection.”

Although Hagedorn’s prints are well represented in museum collections throughout the United States, and although he exhibited extensively and won many prizes in print competitions, few unique works were sold in his lifetime.

When he was 39 years old, Hagedorn was seen to be:
“an artist who changes the intimate quality of etching to a monumental form-- themes are felt so intensely, his plates gashed so deeply and inked so thick, that the idea of etching as mild and delicate is totally denied."

Review of Graphic Arts Annual, San Francisco Art Association, Architect and Engineer, February, 1941

This first monograph on the life and work of Edward Hagedor, to be published in February, 2009, is an attempt by leading scholars and critics to characterize a gifted and prodigious artist. This long anticipated book documents the artist’s life, offers analyses of his themes and meanings, and presents a rich visual selection from his remarkable body of work, considering his aesthetic achievement and uncompromising conviction regarding the human condition from the several perspectives of art history, psychology, philosophy and sociology.

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