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 William Moise  (1922 - 1980)

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Lived/Active: Maine/Illinois      Known for: abstract painting

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Ad Code: 4
1968 oil on canvas, 24 x 36 inches
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:

Biography of William Moise (1922-1980)

William Moise was a complex man, an artist of great talent, a man who left an indelible memory on all those who knew him. It was written of him that, ”Moise extends the line of the impressionists of a century ago, though his work is abstract, modern, not reactionary. Still his style embraces the perspective of Cezanne, the loveliness of Renoir, the emotionalism of Van Gogh, the vision of Monet”.

Bill was born and raised in Carlinville, Illinois, growing up amid a creative and bustling household of three sisters and an industrious mother. All of his sisters entered professional theater, and his mother, into her eighties, commuted winters from Tennessee to Florida to work as Costume Designer for the University in Tampa.

Bill graduated cum laude with a B.A. in English in 1943 from The University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, after which he entered the Navy and served as an anti-aircraft gunnery officer in the Atlantic and the Pacific. Thankfully his convoys were never attacked or in battle, and the war gave him a lot of time to think.             “ I’m almost embarrassed to tell you how I got interested in being an artist,” he later recalled. “I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what would be the least painful job I could do when I came home.” Bill’s sister’s husband was a commercial artist in New York City, and Bill thought  being a commercial artist, ” seemed like a good life- doing what I would enjoy doing and getting paid for it.”

In the following years he studied art at Cooper Union Art School and Columbia University. He received his Masters of Fine Arts, graduating with honors in 1949.

During my last year in art school (Moise wrote) I created from the model…a rather interesting painting. The painting was praised highly as to line, composition, color, and space. So much so that it was instrumental in my receiving an award upon graduation. A few years later, after a lot of emotional  work, I saw that it was good…but the sum total of expression was that of ugly, deadly hate…in art school no one saw this. No professor perceived its ugliness.

During this time in his life Bill became interested in the work of Dr. Wilhelm Reich, a scientist and the father of “body therapy”. Bill left teaching art to become Reich’s assistant and private secretary, during which time he met Eva Reich, Wilhelm’s daughter. Eva and Bill would marry and eventually live together over twenty years, having an only daughter, Renata. Reich’s research laboratories were in Maine, and it was through this connection that Bill and Eva settled in an old farm in Hancock, Maine during the 1950s.

Bill painted outdoors, carrying supplies in an old LL Bean pack basket, turpentine in an old wine bottle, painting solutions held in old sardine cans, paints in a fishing tackle box. His love of life and painting, as well as his most marvelous sense of humor, captivated those who knew him.

Moise’s vibrant style, often with oil paint applied thinly, like watercolor, is identifiable immediately. Of painting in winter, outside, Moise said, “You don’t fiddle around with details…it is very difficult to determine when a painting is finished. If the wind comes along and takes it off the easel, I take that as an omen.”

Forget about pleasing anyone else (Moise wrote), or painting for anyone else…it is a question of how much one loves and needs to paint, how much one loves and is absorbed by the pursuit itself and not by considerations of fame or fortune

He wrote The Taste of Color, Touch of Love, publishing 1000 copies himself in 1970. Affluent summer visitors as well as local art lovers collected his paintings; his work was presented to Governors, Vice Presidents and embassies. In 1972, movie producer Joe Levine, heading a group of four investors, purchased nearly all of Bill’s work (greater than 400 paintings), with a few favorites left in his possession. The paintings chosen by one of the four investors are now in the collection of the University of Maine at Orono.

In an interview in 1979, the interviewer had asked him what, besides painting, compelled his interest?” “Women and tennis,” he grinned.”  Bill Moise died unexpectedly on August 6th, 1980, at the age of 58, during a game of doubles tennis.


Submitted in September of 2007 by his daughter Renata Reich Moses.

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