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 Frank Lobdell  (1921 - 2013)

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Lived/Active: California/Kansas/Missouri      Known for: abstract expression and figurative painting, graphics

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Ad Code: 3
Frank Lobdell
from Auction House Records.
Black Edge II
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Lobdell's diverse body of work is linked by its shared sense of humanity. In the 1940s, he was among the pioneers of the San Francisco Bay Area school of abstract expressionism. During the 1950s, he gradually reintroduced the human figure into his work, thus expanding conventional conceptions of both abstraction and figuration. Drawing inspiration from the vision of Francisco Goya, these works presented a dark, existential worldview shaped by the cumulative horrors of World War II, the Holocaust, the atomic bomb, and the Korean War.

In the 1960s and 1970s, Lobdell expanded the scale and scope of his figures, which now actively asserted their humanity in opposition to the threat posed by the war in Vietnam. From the 1980s to the present, he has developed a resonant new language of signs, one that suggests the primordial and the mythic are not relegated to the past, but still alive and vital in the present. Equating art and life on the most fundamental level, these recent works reconnect contemporary viewers with the eternal physical and spiritual struggle of the artist—and of humankind—for making and meaning.

Submitted by: Adam Beck

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
An Abstract Expressionist painter, printmaker and teacher, Frank Lobdell was born in Kansas City, Missouri but spent most of his career in the Bay Area where he lived in Palo Alto and from 1966 to 1991, was on the faculty at Stanford University. He studied in St. Paul, Minnesota at the School of Fine Art, in San Francisco with Clyfford Still at the California School of Fine Art, and in Paris at the Academie Grand Chaumiere. From 1942 to 1946, Frank Lobdell served in the United States Army.

Of his expressionist painting, Lobdell said: "Whether it takes the form of painting, or the professions, or any of the other arts doesn't matter. It's first the capacity to feel things deeply and the need to express these emotions. There has to be a strong sense of purpose." (Herskovic 214)

Peter Hastings Falk, Editor, Who Was Who in American Art
Marika Herskovic, American Abstract Expressionism of the 1950s: An Illustrated Survey

Biography from Hackett | Mill:
Following is an obituary of the artist.
Frank Lobdell 
Frank Lobdell, a key figure among first-generation Bay Area Abstract Expressionist artists, has died at the age of 92. Lobdell passed away quietly in Palo Alto, California, on the morning of December 14, 2013.

Over the course of nearly seventy years of invention and innovation, Frank Lobdell was counted as an artist who had profound influence in the artistic dialogue of the San Francisco Bay Area, through his artwork and his long teaching career. Widespread critical attention marked every stage of his career, and he was recognized by his peers as an "artist's artist." Lobdell created a powerful body of work in painting, drawing, prints, and sculpture, all of which relied at their core on the drawings that started and ended each day for the artist.
Frank Irving Lobdell was born August 21, 1921, in Kansas City, MO, the son of Ruth Saxton and Earl Lobdell. He grew up in Minnesota, and studied at the St. Paul School of Fine Arts in St. Paul (1939-40). Lobdell served with the U.S. Army (1942-46) in World War II, completing Officer Training in 1943, and arrived in Europe in 1944 shortly before D-Day. In April 1945 Lieutenant Lobdell witnessed the atrocities of war first-hand when his unit came upon a horrific scene in Gardelegen, Germany, where more than 1,000 concentration camp prisoners had been burned alive. This experience shaped his psyche and formed the backdrop for much of his later work. Injured in the war, he spent time in a hospital in England before returning to the U.S. in 1946.
"After serving in World War II, Frank Lobdell confronted the question of whether art retained any relevance in a world forever transformed by the Holocaust, Hiroshima, and the horrors of war," said Timothy Anglin Burgard, The Ednah Root Curator of American Art, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. "In the ensuing decades he worked to resurrect the human figure-which had been physically and psychically traumatized during the war-utilizing a vocabulary of archetypal themes and abstract symbols. Tempering an existential sensibility with a transcendent humanism, he forged a unique pictorial language for our modern age."
After the war, Lobdell moved to Sausalito, CA, and attended the California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco (CSFA, now San Francisco Art Institute) on the G.I. Bill (1947-50), where faculty members included Clyfford Still, Mark Rothko, and David Park. At CSFA, Lobdell began a lifelong friendship with fellow painter Richard Diebenkorn.
Lobdell's war experiences made him a confirmed pacifist. At the onset of the Korean War, he left the U.S. for Paris, where he painted at L'Academie de la Grande Chaumiere (1950-51), until returning to the Bay Area in September 1951. In 1957 he was invited to join the faculty at CSFA, where he taught until 1964.
In 1959 Lobdell began to attend weekly figure drawing sessions with Diebenkorn, Park, and Elmer Bischoff, and he became a member of the group after Park's death later that year. The artists continued to meet weekly in each other's studios until 1965, when they accepted new teaching positions. Lobdell was Visiting Artist at Stanford University in 1965, where he was asked to form the graduate art department. He was named Professor of Art at Stanford in 1966 and taught there until retiring in 1991. At Stanford, Lobdell resumed weekly figure drawing sessions with fellow instructors Nathan Oliveira, Keith Boyle, Jim Johnson, and others. In his figure drawings, Lobdell focused on large shapes formed by light and shadow, and these elements later coalesced in the imagery characteristic of his paintings and prints.
Frank Lobdell's reputation and stature were well established nationally and internationally by the mid-1950s. During the 1950s and 1960s he exhibited regularly in San Francisco, New York, and Los Angeles, including several exhibitions at Ferus Gallery. Martha Jackson supported Lobdell's work through her New York gallery, and she and Michel Tapié promoted his work in Europe. Early on, Lobdell's work was included in international exhibitions, at the Petit Palais, Paris; Third Biennial of São Paulo; Osaka International Festival, Japan; and in London, Turin, and Eindhoven; with solo exhibitions in Geneva (1964) and Paris (1965). His works were shown in exhibitions at the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (1960); The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (1962); Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (1964), and numerous other museums and galleries.
Solo museum exhibitions of Frank Lobdell's work included San Francisco's M. H. de Young Memorial Museum (1960, 1992); an early retrospective organized by Walter Hopps for the Pasadena Art Museum (1966); San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (1969, 1983); Stanford University Art Museum (1966, 1988, 1993), and others. In 2003, Lobdell's work was the subject of a comprehensive retrospective, Frank Lobdell: The Art of Making and Meaning, at the Palace of the Legion of Honor, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, organized by curator Timothy Anglin Burgard, and later shown at the Portland Art Museum, OR, and Fresno Art Museum. More recent solo museum exhibitions were at the Marin Museum of Contemporary Art, Novato, CA (2008); Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts, Stanford University (2009-10); Christian Petersen Art Museum, Iowa State University, Ames (2010); and San Jose Museum of Art (2012).
Frank Lobdell's works are in museums that include Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY; Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts, Stanford University; Jack S. Blanton Museum of Art, University of Texas, Austin; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; The Menil Collection, Houston; Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego; National Academy of Design, New York; The National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, and The National Gallery of Art, Washington DC; The Oakland Museum, CA; Phoenix Art Museum, AZ; Portland Art Museum, OR; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; San Jose Museum of Art; UC Berkeley Art Museum, and others.
Frank Lobdell received many honors and awards for his work, including the Nealie Sullivan Award, San Francisco Art Association (1960); Pew Foundation Grant (1986); Medal for Distinguished Achievement in Painting (1988) and Academy Purchase Award (1992, 1994) from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, New York; and in 1998 he was elected to the National Academy of Design.
"Frank Lobdell's courage to confront existential questions in his art made his work revelatory and unique on a multitude of levels," said Michael Hackett. "He relentlessly pursued painting, drawing and printmaking with the intent that his works could be charged with emotion that deeply moved the viewer."
A commemorative exhibition will open at Hackett | Mill on May 16, 2014.


Biography from Krevsky Fine Art:
Frank Lobdell is widely recognized as one of the premier post-war American abstract painters and a major player in American Abstract Expressionism.  Despite considerable recognition in San Francisco and New York, Lobdell remains something of an enigma. He is known for working with a "monastic commitment" to the principles of creative intuition.  Lobdell has always sought privacy, telling an interviewer in 1960, "being anonymous is really the best condition to be able to create."

In more than 50 years of gallery and museum exhibits in San Francisco and New York, Lobdell has continually pushed his work, reinventing and recycling the ideas behind his imagery, keeping to his tenet that "the purpose of painting is always to go beyond what can be said in words".

Lobdell has also long been admired by other artists for his figure drawings.  In quality and freshness, Lobdell's drawings are considered by curators and critics to be the equal of those by his illustrious drawing companion, Richard Diebenkorn.

Frank Lobdell was born in Kansas City, Missouri in 1921 and studied with Cameron Booth at the St Paul School of Fine Arts.  From 1942 until 1946 Lobdell saw active service in Europe during World War II.  He then attended the California School of Fine Arts (now the San Francisco Art Institute) from 1947-50, where he studied with Richard Diebenkorn, Clyfford Still and Mark Rothko. Lobdell returned to teach at CSFA in 1957, then joined the Stanford University faculty in 1966, retiring after 25 years.

Lobdell is a recipient of the Medal for Distinguished Achievement in Painting from the American Academy and Institute of Arts & Letters.  His work is included in the collections of major museums, including the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena, CA; The Oakland Museum of California; The M.H. de Young Museum, San Francisco, CA; the Portland Art Museum, Oregon, and the Smithsonian Museum of American Art, Washington D.C.

Source:  San Francisco Art Institute.

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Frank Lobdell is also mentioned in these AskART essays:
Abstract Expressionism

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