Kalman Oswald was born in 1888 in Erzi, Hungry. While still an idealistic young man, he made a decision to cross the Atlantic. He gained passage on a ship that was headed to Ellis Island, Port of New York. At a later point he traveled to San Francisco. Like most immigrants he was impressed by the grand scale of the large American cites.
After a long period of struggle, he met his wife to be Helmi, a beautiful woman from Finland who was a graduate of Berkley University. She was later employed by the Finish Embassy. They were married and shortly after took residence in Manhattan. The painter’s svelte spouse appears as his muse in many of his best portraits. He has repeatedly captured her lasting beauty throughout the years.
Once he and his wife were established on the East Coast, Oswald became a member of the Society of Independent Artists and The Salons of America. This creative artist was very active during The Great Depression (1929- 1939). His works in oils were exhibited successfully in America. Previously Oswald had traveled and studies in Europe. He garnered some notoriety in the United States for his abilities as a draughtsman and painter. His works often reflected the modern influences of the times. Oswald proved to be extremely diverse. He expressed himself through various conservative renditions of still life, portrait, and landscape. Many paintings of this period were exhibited and featured in some of the most significant group shows in the country.
His career gradually gained momentum. His works were included in the third annual exhibition of The Fine Arts Guild. “The Little International” that was featured at the Morton Galleries in November 1933.
Kalman Oswald (1888-1975) paintings were included in this show along with other notable Moderns such as Isabel Bishop (1902-1988) Sam Brecha (1897-1982) Betty Parish (1910- 1986) along with a host of others.
One reviewer mentioned Oswald’s delightful vignette of Stockholm “Sinister in feeling weird in lighting.” Another critic made note in Exhibition Review “There is effective color in Kalman Oswald’s Still Life,” in the same breath, the reviewer critiques American modernist Burgoyne Diller (1906-1965) “for gazing to long at Georges Braque.”
Oswald was included in a notable traveling exhibit of 45 paintings sponsored by The Salons of America. The New York Times covered in the event in May 1932. The show was originally featured at The American Anderson Galleries in New York. This extremely prestigious exhibit included some of the best talent in America. The show was organized and sponsored by the College Art Association. It was routed to many prominent colleges and universities. During the course of the year it was designated to be featured at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor, The Faulkner Memorial Gallery Santa Barbra, and Columbia Gallery of Fine Arts. Oswald had the good fortune to show with some of the countries most creative talent. Included among them were Milton Avery, Stuart Davis, Ernest Fine, Yasuo Kuniyoshi, and Max Weber.
In March 1938 Kalman Oswald was featured in a solo exhibit at the Grant Studios 175 MacDougal Street, New York City. The gallery featured new works from the artist’s oeuvre. The cover of the show brochure shows an Expressionist Portrait that exemplified the artist style at the time.
Over the decade the artist produced an impressive body of work that consisted of realistic paintings and drawings executed in various media. He created a series of still lives that portrayed drapery and fruits, a label on the verso of one panel read, “Kalman Oswald 54 East 59th Street, New York City.” His style of painting during the period was simple and direct. He was mentioned in several articles of the times, and among them the Reviewers Notebook dated April 1937
Oswald was regarded as an excellent draughtsman. His models were well drawn, they were keenly observed. The artist was at ease when rendering difficult posses. When reviewing his drawings the somber mood of the 30’s prevails. His female figures can be observed gazing off in the distance with enigmatic expressions of their faces. Many of his loosely drawn renditions echo the sensuousness of Jules Pascin (1885-1930). In contrast, other works seemed to be influenced by the more regional style of Kenneth Hays Miller. (1876-1952) Many professionals like Oswald continued to frequent the evening life classes at the Art Students League in New York City.
As late as April 28, 1958 the New York Journal featured a photo of Kalman Oswald (1074 Second Avenue New York) painting a cherry tree, en plain air in Central Park. A decade earlier The Abstract Expressionist Movement had taken root. By this time many artist like Oswald that were previously successful, with techniques that incorporated realistic approaches, were beginning to withdraw from the art scene.
Although the Oswalds had a strong affinity for New York City, they were beginning to appreciate the rustic New England landscape. They continually made trips to the Berkshires, an area famous for its rolling hills and antique farm houses. They purchased a house in Monterey. The mature painter was able to take his studio outdoors. Exposed the the effects of nature, Kalman was able to relax as he made his studies on location. He was less prolific in later years; his output was sound, but minimal. The artist produced flower arrangements that were based on types that were indigenous to the area. He often made modest tonal studies that featured the mountain ranges of the Berkshires.
He and his wife eventually distanced themselves from Manhattan. They became well established residents of Monterey. The Berkshire Eagle made notice of the artist’s departure. After a long artist career, living a full life Kalman Oswald died in Monterey Massachusetts, at the age of 87, on March 1975.
Written and Compiled by:
Jim Kieley, Woodbury, Connecticut (July 4, 2009)
Ref: articles from the New York Times
Who Was Who in American Art – Peter Hastings Falk (editor)
Much esoteric information was culled from notes and garnered from the estate of Kalman Oswald