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 Ernest Lothar  (1906 - 1961)

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Lived/Active: Maryland / Austria      Known for: abstract figure, cartoon, illustration

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Ad Code: 4
Ernest Lothar
An example of work by Ernest Lothar
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following is submitted by Melita Pepper, stepdaughter of the artist.

Ernest Lothar was born in Vienna to a Jewish family in 1906, as Ernest Lothar Deutsch. His mother painted as a hobby, and Ernest showed talent as soon as he could hold a pencil. As a youth he studied at the Academy of Fine and Applied Arts from 1922-1926, under Professor Adolf Boehm. After leaving the Academy he concentrated on copying old masters of the Italian School in the Kunsthistorichen Museum. While making his living working in a factory in the late twenties, he became a full time freelance artist and illustrator for publishing houses in Austria, Poland, Italy and Switzerland.

When Hitler invaded Austria in 1938, Lothar went to Zurich, Switzerland as a refugee. There he was able to study for a time at Kunstgewebeschule, and with sculptor Hans Aeschbacher, whose studio he worked in. He also gave art classes in refugee camps until a year later when he was taken into the Swiss Military Service, where he worked 10-hour days as a stonebreaker. During the year he worked in the Road Service, he had a single 24-hour break. Reporting too sick to work, he was told that since he was an artist, he could spend the time painting a portrait of the commanding general.

Although he desired to immigrate to America, Austrians were not allowed to enter the United States at that time. With the threat of Hitler imminent, Lothar took the opportunity to enter the Dominican Republic, although told it would be on the condition that he remain there for the rest of his life as a farmer. In January 1941 he arrived in the newly founded agricultural settlement of Sosua with his Swiss wife. There he worked for 35 cents a day on a tobacco plantation. Despite the labor, intense heat, and constant din of insects, the primitive beauty of the tropics inspired outpourings of work in a new unique style. His work drew enough attention for the Pan-American Union to organize a one-man show in 1942. More successful shows followed in Washington DC, New York, and Los Angeles, resulting in his appointment to Professor of Painting at the School of Fine Arts in Ciudad Trujillo by the President of the Dominican Republic in 1945.

Assisted by his friends Leo Katz and Viktor Lowenfeld, he accepted a teaching position at Hampton Institute in Virginia. Through this job he was allowed to leave the Dominican Republic in 1947. After 3 years at Hampton, and needing more time to devote to his craft and evolving style, Lothar moved to Washington DC, teaching at Washington Center for the Arts, the National Art School, and Dept of Recreation in Arlington, VA.

Stricken with Multiple Sclerosis sometime after 1942, the disease began to assert itself more aggressively and so he moved to Baltimore in 1952, living close by his parents who had immigrated a few years previous. In 1953 he married his second wife, Helen Pepper. Inspired by love, he worked feverishly that year, creating some of his most beautiful work. As the disease progressed, he adapted his style to his physical abilities, until he could no longer hold a brush. With Helen's daughter, the couple moved to Arlington, VA in 1956. After his death in1961, Helen placed most of his work in storage where it remained for almost 30 years.

Ernest Lothar's unique style melds influences of Art Deco, pre-Columbian, Expressionism, and oriental art. Summed up by his friend Leo Katz, his work has "an almost rhythmically musical kind of organization of lines, tone, and colors in space".

The following is a quote from a letter Lothar wrote to a friend in 1955.

"When I came to the United States, I taught three years with Dr. Leo Katz who is now director of Atelier 17 in New York City. All my teaching experiences had to be discarded and I had to start new research into the modern approaches which have been discovered during the last twenty years. I worked very hard and found myself involved in new ways of esthetic expressions which I had never dreamed of before. It changed completely my way of teaching and of creating. It is impossible to explain in a letter findings which took sometimes the whole life of great artists to make. In general my composition deals with completely heretofore unknown ways with line, form, color and space. This explains certain unfamiliar aspects of my work. I am not surprised that it does not appeal in an instant."

Periodicals (magazines and newspapers) wherereferenced:

Art Digest November 1945, March 15, 1946 Jo Gimes, March 15, 1951

Art News March 1946, March 1951

La Nacion Ciudad Trijillo, Dominican Republic November 1943

March 1944

November 1945

March 1946

August 1946

February 1947

Newspaper Articles

La Prensa New York March 15, 1946

Brooklyn Eagle March 10, 1946

Los Angeles Examiner January 4, 1948 Kay English

World Telegraph 1946

Bangor Commercial Maine November 3, 1947, December 1, 1947, January 4, 1949

Washington Post November 4, 1945, March 13, 1949

Sunday May 14, 1950 Sonia Stein

Sunday April 13, 1952 Leslie Judd Portner

Sunday October 10, 1954 Leslie Judd Portner

The Sunday Star, Washington, D.C. March 20, 1949

April 6, 1952

Dec. 12, 1954 Florence S. Berryman

April 14, 1957

The Evening Sun, Baltimore November 12, 1952, December 3, 1952

The Sun, Baltimore, November 9, 1952

Sunday May 6, 1956 Kenneth B. Sawyer

Daily Press Newport News Sunday May 1, 1949 Matt Fulgham


One Man Shows

1942 Museum of the Pan American Union

1942 Atheneum of San Juan, Puerto Rico

1943 National Gallery, Ciudad Trujillo, Dominican Republic

1945 The Whyte gallery, Washington, D.C.

1946 George Binet Gallery, New York, New York

1947 National Gallery, Ciudad Trujillo, Dominican Republic

1947 University of Maine, Orono, Maine

1947 Public Library, Bangor, Maine

1948 Francis Taylor galleries, Los Angeles, CA

1948 Catholic University, Washington, D.C.

1948 University of Maine, Orono, Maine

1949 United Nations Club, Washington, D.C.

1951 Bodley Gallery, New York, New York

1951 Erskine College, Due West, South Carolina

1952 Maryland University, College Park, Maryland

1952 Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland

1953 American University, Washington, D.C.

1953 Hilltop Theatre School of Art, Baltimore, Maryland

1954 Dupont Theatre, Washington, D.C.

1955 Circle Theater Gallery, New Orleans, Louisiana

1955 University of Maine, Orono, Maine


The 55th Chicago Annual, Chicago Art Institute

Washington Watercolor Club, Washington, D.C., 1951, 1952

George Binet Gallery, New York, New York

Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, New York

Dupont Theatre Art Gallery, Washington. D.C.

Norfolk Museum, Norfolk, Virginia

The Whyte Gallery, Washington, D.C.

American University spring Show, 1951, Washington, D.C.

Corcoran Annual Exhibitions, 1951, 1952, Washington, D.C.

Phillips Gallery, March 1952, Washington, D.C.

Artists' Equity Show, Baltimore Museum, Baltimore, Maryland 1952, 1955

Artists' Union Show, Baltimore Museum, Baltimore, Maryland 1952, 1954, 1955

Society of Arts and Letters Show, Corcoran Gallery, Washington, D.C. 1953

Artists' Guild Show, Washington, D.C. 1954, 1955

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