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 Joseph Jeswald  (1927 - 2009)

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Lived/Active: Massachusetts/Florida/Ohio      Known for: modernist figure painting

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:

Jeswald, the son of an Ohio factory worker was born in 1927 and raised in an Italian-American enclave in the village of Leetonia. During World War II, he joined the service, went to Germany in 1945 and was among the first Americans to enter the concentration camps.

He saw Dachau. "He entered those death camps as a 17-year-old Catholic boy and came out somebody completely different," Hester Jeswald, his widow, said. "He had no idea that this kind of horror could happen.  His paintings have always had black in them and that's where this comes from."  Jeswald studied in Paris at the Academy Julien, and was hand-picked to train with French abstract artist Fernard Leger.

When he returned to the United States, he settled in New York City around 1950 where he began his career.  He also studied at Columbia University.  In New York, he met a young dancer, June Jeswald, whom he would marry.  In 1955, they moved to Rockport, Massachusetts, a town they both loved.  Here they raised his two boys from an earlier marriage and a daughter.

Jeswald approached the North Shore Community Arts Foundation, which operated North Shore Music Theatre and the foundation decided to establish the Montserrat College of Art, named after its location in the Montserrat section of Beverly.  Jeswald began compiling his faculty, many of which came from Cape Ann and the New England School of Art, now part of Suffolk University.  The school opened in 1969 with 120 students and Jeswald served as president until 1985.  The school later expanded and moved to a new home in downtown Beverly; Jeswald himself moved to Beverly after he and June separated in 1979.

After retiring from the school, he again devoted all his time to his art, having moved away from abstraction to a more realist storytelling.

His work is in major collections, including the Smithsonian's Hirshhorn Museum, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Neuberger Museum of Art and the Addison Gallery of American Art at Phillips Academy in Andover.

Jeswald painted up until his death, and never let his illness during the last year of his life change the way he saw the world.  He died in 2009 at age 81 in Sarasota, Florida.

Obituary. "Artist's legacy rooted in horrors of World War II Cape Ann painter, Montserrat College founder dead at 81" by Gail McCarthy, Gloucester Daily Times, March 28, 2009

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