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 Irene Gayas Jungwirth  (1911 - 1992)

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Lived/Active: Michigan      Known for: figure, genre painting

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Irene Gayas Jungwirth
An example of work by Irene Gayas Jungwirth
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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Irene Gayas Jungwirth (1911-1992)

Irene was a prolific and self-taught artist, painting with hand-ground colors with egg tempera on Masonite or canvas.  She was an outspoken woman, using imagination, religious beliefs, emotions, and everyday encounters with others to give meaning to her paintings.  Featured in many of her paintings, she was fascinated by the beauty of the human figure.  Her paintings reflect her philosophies.  Symbolism was used frequently, and many of her paintings were mystical or prophetic.  "A person paints what they are, emotionally, temperamentally, physically and philosophically."(IGJ).  She painted many religious paintings and designed stained glass windows for several churches in Lansing and East Lansing.  Irene felt that "art should make you gasp".  Her art was in numerous invitational and juried shows around the country, is in the Detroit Institute of Arts, Kresge Art Museum, and many private collections.  Husband Leonard Jungwirth made the frames for all of her paintings during his lifetime.  Irene felt that art should be shared and appreciated by as many people as possible.

Irene Gayas Jungwirth was born in McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania, and moved to Detroit with her Polish parents at an early age.  Her father, in the Polish cavalry, had fled Poland ahead of the Cossacks.  Her mother was a suffragette, who was jailed once.  Orphaned by age 8, she and her sister were raised by the nuns at St. Vincent Orphanage, her brother at St. Francis Home for Boys.  Her talent was recognized and she was sent to Cass Technical High School's notable art program, where she studied Commercial art, jewelry making, music, costume and set design.

She turned down a scholarship to the prestigious Detroit Arts and Crafts School to attend Marygrove College, where she studied art and philosophy and graduated in 1935 with high honors and an art education certificate.  She taught at Gesu Catholic School in Detroit, and taught classes in painting and puppet making to children at the Detroit Institute of Arts.  She met Leonard Jungwirth through a mutual priest friend, and they were married in 1939.  They moved to East Lansing in 1940, when Leonard accepted an assistant professorship in the new Art Department at the then Michigan State College. She had two daughters, Alessandra and Andrea.  She continued to paint and exhibit all her life.  She was widowed in 1963, and died in Ann Arbor in 1992.

Information provided by Andrea Jungwirth Lams.

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