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 Frank Albert Mechau Jr.  (1904 - 1946)

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Lived/Active: New York/Colorado/Kansas      Known for: mod figure painting, illustration, mural

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Ad Code: 3
Frank Albert Jr Mechau
from Auction House Records.
Tom Kenney Comes Home
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in 1904 in WaKeeney, Kansas and raised in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, Frank Mechau was a muralist, artist-correspondent, painter and teacher. He lived in New York City and Redstone, Colorado and traveled in Europe from 1929 to 1931, and there was much influenced by the Cubist painters. As a young man, in order to earn money to go to school, he did prize fighting and worked as a cattle driver for the railroad.

Mechau studied at the University of Denver, the Chicago Art Institute and from 1925 to 1929 in New York City, where he said he was "studying in the museums". (Samuels 319). He became an Associate Member of the National Academy of Design. From 1934 to 1936, he held a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, and then taught for two years at the Colorado Fine Arts Center, and four years at Columbia University where he was Director of Art Classes.

His 1936 mural, "Dangers of the Mail", brought him national attention because of its controversial depiction of Indians, having overturned a stage coach, scalping nude white female passengers and murdering the men. Mechau defended himself, saying that his focus was the depiction of a massacre and not ethnologically correct subjects.

During World War II beginning 1944, Mechau was an artist correspondent for Life Magazine, and with this assignment traveled 20,000 miles, primarily of U.S. military bases in the Pacific

With his painting, he proceeded very slowly, begining with thumb-nail sketches, and in a 15-year period completed only about 60 works.

Exhibition venues included the Denver Art Museum, Whitney Museum of American Art, Pennsylvania Academy, Kansas City Art Institute, and the Corcoran Gallery. Murals by Mechau can be found at the Denver Public Library; the United States Post Office Building in Washington DC; Colorado Springs and Glenwood Springs, Colorado Post Offices; and the Colorado Fine Arts Center.

Peter Falk, "Who Was Who in American Art"
Peggy and Harold Samuels, The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Artists of the American West"

Michael K. Mechau, son of the artist, states that his father was born in 1904, and not 1903 as some art historians have written.
(E-mail, January, 2004).
Exhibition Record (Museums, Institutions and Awards):
Independants Artists Americains Modernes, Paris, 1931; Midwestern Artists Exhibition, 1936; Denver Art Museum, 1946; Colorado Springs Fine Arts Centre, 1948; Denver Art Museum, 1972; Aspen Center for the Visual Arts, 1981.
National Academy of Design.

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born Wakeeney, Jan. 26, 1904; died Denver, CO, 1946. Painter. Teacher. Muralist. Western illustrator. He was raised in Glenwood Springs, CO. Studied at the University of Denver from 1922-23, the Denver Art Academy from 1923-24, and the Art Institute of Chicago from 1924-25. He was studying in Europe from 1929-31. While in France he worked as a book illustrator and as a set designer for Ballets Russes. He began his career as a painter in Denver in 1931. In 1933 he taught at the Kirkland School of Art and founded his own art school. He was a painting instructor at Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center in 1937-38 and taught at Columbia University from 1939-43. In 1944, he began work as an artist correspondent for Life Magazine. He also illustrated Richard Aldington’s The Love of Myrrhine and Konallis (1926).
Guggenheim Fellowships 1933, 35, 36; Second Prize, Midwestern Artists Exhibition, 1936.

Murals in the post offices in Washington, DC, Colorado Springs, CO, and Glenwood Springs, Co plus the Denver Public Library and the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center; Denver Art Museum; Museum of Modern Art; Anschutz Collection; Detroit Institute of Fine Arts; Spencer Museum of Art; Metropolitan Museum of Art; Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts; Kansas City Art Institute; Corcoran Gallery.

National Academy of Design.

Susan Craig, "Biographical Dictionary of Kansas Artists (active before 1945)"
Who’s Who in American Art. New York: American Federation of Arts, 1936- v.1=1936-37 v.3= 1941-42 v.2=1938-39 v.4=1940-47., 1-3; Sain, Lydia. Kansas Artists, compiled by Lydia Sain from 1932 to 1948. Typed Manuscript, 1948.; Newlin, Gertrude Dix (Development of Art in Kansas. Typed Manuscript, 1951); Festival of Kansas Arts and Crafts. Catalog: Arts and Crafts of Kansas: an Exhibition held in Lawrence, Feb. 18-22, 1948 in the Community Building. Lawrence: World Co., 1948; Art in Federal Buildings: an illustrated record of the Treasury Department’s New Program in Painting and Sculpture. Volume 1: Mural Design, 1934-36. Washington, DC: Art in Federal Buildings Inc., 1936; Samuels, Peggy. Illustrated Biographical Encyclopedia of Artists of the American West. Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Co., 1976.; Midwestern Artists’ Exhibition (Kansas City: Kansas City Art Institute, 1920-1942 Mines, Cynthia. For the Sake of Art: The Story of an Art Movement in Kansas. s.l. Mines, 1979.) 1936; AskArt,, accessed Dec. 21, 2005; Frank Mechau, 1904-1946; A Retrospective Exhibition of Paintings and Drawings. (Fort Worth: Amon Carter Museum of Western Art, 1967); Bach, Cile M. Frank Mechau: Artist of Colorado. (Aspen, CO: Aspen Center for the Visual Arts, 1981)
This and over 1,750 other biographies can be found in Biographical Dictionary of Kansas Artists (active before 1945) compiled by Susan V. Craig, Art & Architecture Librarian at University of Kansas.

Biography from William A. Karges Fine Art - Beverly Hills:
Frank Mechau was born in Wakeeney, Kansas, in 1904. He studied at the Denver University and the Art Institute of Chicago, where he exhibited, and was a member of the National Academy of Design in New York. He is best remembered for his WPA-era murals, and for his modernist western landscapes.

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