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 Eugene David Ludins  (1904 - 1996)

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Lived/Active: New York/Iowa / Russian Federation      Known for: droll figure-genre, surreal view painting

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Eugene Ludins (1904-1996)

Eugene Ludins was born March 23, 1904 in the city of Mariupol, Ukraine.  Jews began settling in Mariupol in the early 19th century, and by 1900 this city on the Azov Sea had a Jewish population of 5,103.[1]  The Ludins family left this Ukrainian city in 1904, only 3 months after Gene Ludins was born, and settled in Bronx, New York.  This turned out to be a timely emigration.  “During the pogrom of October 20-22, 1905 in the city, 21 Jews were killed and many of the Jewish shops and houses looted... On October 8, 1941, the Germans occupied Mariupol. The Jews of Mariupol were killed in two murder operations in October 1941.” [2]

Ludins’ parents were David and Olga Ludins, and he had 2 older brothers and an older sister.  David Ludins is described as an architect in US Census records, and in 1918 he traveled to Peru to produce a report on mica mining.[3]

Ludins studied at the Art Students League.  He married sculptress, Hannah Small, in 1937.  During the Depression Ludins served as the Supervisor of the Woodstock, New York Federal Art Project from 1937-1938, and he then became Supervisor of the New York State Federal Art Project from 1938-1939.  During WWII Ludins served in the Pacific.  After the war Ludins moved to Iowa where he was Associate Professor of Painting at the University of Iowa from 1948-1969.  For the remainder of his life Ludins lived in Woodstock, New York where he was active in the Woodstock Artists Association. “Ludins was also recognized as a master framemaker. Typically his frames were intricately carved and silver leafed.”[4]  

Ludins actively exhibited throughout his career.  In 1948 he won the Temple Award for best in show at the Pennsylvania Academy of Art.  Ludins had group shows at many venues, including the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney.  Solo shows took place at the Contemporary Arts Gallery in New York (1933), Passedoit Gallery (1946-1958), Krasner Gallery (1961), and others.  His work is in the collections of the Whitney, Butler Institute of American Art, Des Moines Art Center, and Woodstock Art Association.

Howard Devree, art critic for The New York Times, reported favorably on Ludins during the late 1940’s.  In 1947 he wrote, “Eugene Ludins, too, is a realist, but a romantic realist…  Ludins paints with a romantic sense of humanity – with sympathy, with ruggedness, with kindly humor… This is spirited and moving work, the sometimes commonplace subject – matter rescued by broken color.  Ludins has too much feeling for paint ever to let the beholder down.”[5]  Many art critics commented on favorable on Ludins’ poetic landscapes and the sense of humor they contain.  Ludins himself said, “Expressionistic works usually deal with human forms or forms in nature, often in a satirical fashion.”[6] These characterizations could well be applied to “The Committee” – an American scene accented by “broken colors” and a sense of humor as the officious looking townspeople gather to observe a large public works project.

(4) Falk, Peter Hastings, Who Was Who in  American Art: 1564-1975, Sound View Press, 1999.
(5) Devree, Howard, The New York Times, “An American Gamut,” November 30, 1947.
(6) “Ludins’ Paintings on Exhibit Here,” Iowa City Press-Citizen, November 7, 1961.

Written and submitted by Steven Wasser,

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