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 Harold Lehman  (1913 - 2006)

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Lived/Active: New York/California      Known for: surreal views, genre, portrait, mural, sculptor, painter

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Ad Code: 4
Harold Lehman
An example of work by Harold Lehman
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following is from the artist, 2001

Harold Lehman's experience as an American artist encompasses six decades. His journey began in Los Angeles beside the great Mexican muralist D.A. Siqueiros. During this period, Lehman also became a prominent member of the Post-Surrealists, an avant-garde group of California artists active in the 1930's. Soon after, he returned to New York where he was invited to participate as a mural painter under the Federal Art Project. Lehman is a past member of the National Society of Mural Painters, The Woodstock Artists Association, The United American Artists, as well as the United Scenic Artists.

Lehman has exhibited extensively throughout the United States since 1933. Some of the most important events in his professional life include:

1931 Upon graduating from Manual Arts High School in Los Angeles, Lehman won a citywide competition for a sculpture scholarship to Otis Art Institute. At the end of that year, he won the Sculpture Award at the Otis Art Institute exhibit at the Los Angeles Museum for his sculpture, The Prophet Jeremiah.

1933 - Los Angeles Museum, 14th Annual exhibit where he won 2nd prize for the painting, The Landlady.

1933 - Stanley Rose Gallery, Hollywood, Ca. Two man show with Philip Guston, which was critically acclaimed by Arthur Millier, the leading art critic of the L.A. Times.

1935 - Jake Zeitlin Gallery, Los Angles, Ca, Critically acclaimed one man show.

1933-35 Worked with D.A. Siquieros, famous Mexican mural painter, doing portable frescoes. During this same period, Lehman was one of the original members of the Post Surrealist group. He exhibited extensively with them in several venues throughout California.

1935 Lehman, a native New Yorker, returned organizing an "experimental workshop" in New York with Siquieros. They recruited many American artists, including Jackson Pollock.

1937-40 Lehman was assigned by the Federal Art Project to design a mural Man's Daily Bread, for Rikers Island, NY. The designs and details were exhibited in 1940 at the Whitney Museum. Two of these details were also prominently exhibited at the American Art Today Building at the 1939-40 World's Fair. One of these, The Driller, became famous throughout the country and is now in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian Museum of American Art.  It was also made into a full-page reproduction in America As Art, written by Joshua C. Taylor, former director of the Smithsonian National Collection of Fine Arts. During this period he also executed several other mural projects including the Post Office in Renovo, PA.

1942-46 Moved to Woodstock and did a series of paintings for the Treasury Department that were used as posters for War Bond Drives. He was a member of the Woodstock Art Association and arranged several exhibits with themes relating to WWII. Lehman was very involved with art as a social and political statement. He did many paintings and constructions, and organized and directed shows along these lines at the Woodstock Art Association Gallery. In 1943, Lehman submitted two posters for the Museum of Modern Art's War Poster Exhibit. Both Deliver Us From Evil and This Is the Enemy were chosen for the show, which was held at the Museum of Modern Art and traveled throughout the country. He also constructed a triptych called, Man In A Foxhole. This novel approach to mural painting made use of a projector that gave the image a three-dimensional look.

1946-50 After World War II, in 1946, Lehman returned to New York City. He resumed easel painting, sculpture, and photography. He made photographic prints without the use of a camera. Many of these were exhibited 1947. He also began teaching art from his studio on West 21st Street.

1950-Present From 1945 until the early 1960's Lehman lived in a loft on West 21st Street in New York. In addition to continuing with his own art, Lehman became involved as a scenic artist/designer for both large-scale theme parks as well as for television and film. In the early '60's he worked for Asbury Park and Freedom Land and in 1964-65 directed exhibits for the Coca-Cola Pavilion at the New York World's Fair. In 1967 he traveled to Montreal, Canada to be Exhibit Consultant to the Canadian Government's exhibits in Expo '67.

In 1967, the Smithsonian Museum of American Art acquired The Driller, a detail from the Riker's Island mural, Man's Daily Bread. It remains in their permanent collection and has traveled throughout the United States and Europe on loan.

Throughout the 1970's Lehman was both designer and scenic artist for CBS and NBC television. Since 1980, Lehman has been developing other art projects and exhibits. He has also given talks on art and been a panel member at art symposiums that include:

A symposium on Mexican and American art at the Detroit Institute of Art, with Francis O'Connor and Lawrence Hurlburt, 1978.

A symposium on Art of the WPA era at the Miami-Dade Museum's Mitchel Wolfson Collection Exhibit, 1985.

The Tilted Arc controversy in New York where he was one of the speakers who addressed the topic "What Is Appropriate and What Isn't in Public Art", 1985.

In 1995, three of Mr. Lehman's surrealist paintings were included in a retrospective exhibit called "Pacific Dreams: California Surrealists - 1930's". The tour went to the following museums: Oakland Museum of California, Oakland, CA, UCLA/Armand Hammer Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA, Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art, Logan, UT.

A symposium on art of the WPA held at the Art Student's League, in New York, where Lehman was a guest speaker, March, 1999.

Among other venues, the following is a list of private collectors that own Mr. Lehman's artwork:

Mural, Renovo, Pa. Post Office
The Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection, The Wolfsonian Foundation, Miami Beach, Florida.
Collection of Jason Schoen, Miami, Florida
Collection of Konrad Nowakowski, Vienna, Austria

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in New York City on October 2, 1913. Arriving in Los Angeles in 1930, Lehman began his studies at Manual Arts High School and continued at the Otis Art Institute and with Siqueiros. During that time he was active with an avant-garde group of Post-Surrealists which included Jackson Pollock and Philip Guston. He then returned to his native city where he remained until his demise on April 2, 2006. Exhibited: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1933; Rose Gallery (Los Angeles), 1933; Painters & Sculptors of Los Angeles, 1933-35; San Diego Fine Arts Gallery, 1934; Progessive Painters of Southern California, 1934; Zeitlin Gallery (Los Angeles), 1935; New York World’s Fair, 1939. Works held: National Museum of American Art; United States Post Office (Renovo, PA); California Palace of Legion of Honor; Newark Museum.
Edan Hughes, "Artists in California, 1786-1940"
Who’s Who in American Art, 1936-62.
Nearly 20,000 biographies can be found in Artists in California 1786-1940 by Edan Hughes and is available for sale ($150). For a full book description and order information please click here.

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