Joseph Kleitsch (1882-1931) California 30 1/4 x 40 1/4in (Painted in 1930.)

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Lot 156
Joseph Kleitsch
(1882-1931)
California 30 1/4 x 40 1/4in

US$ 200,000 - 300,000
£ 150,000 - 220,000
Joseph Kleitsch (1882-1931)
California
signed, inscribed and dated 'JOSEPH KLEITSCH / CALIFORNIA / 1930' (lower right), stamped 'Kleitsch' and inscribed 'Mrs. Kleitsch' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
30 1/4 x 40 1/4in
Painted in 1930.

Footnotes

  • Provenance
    The Estate of Ruth Westphal, Newport Beach, California.

    Literature
    P. Trenton, Joseph Kleitsch: A Kaleidoscope of Color, Irvine, 2007, p. 24, full page color illustration.

    Joseph Kleitsch's restless nature, perceptive eye, and an appetite for color were fulfilled by the countless opportunities to paint and record. In 1922 he signed an exclusive contract for Southern California with Stendahl Galleries, insuring regular exhibitions and giving him ample and favorable local press. On the first day of 1921, the gallery was located in the newly built Ambassador Hotel, which soon became the social center of Los Angeles.

    As early as 1918, color and pattern began to emerge as an essential part of Kleitsch's compositions. These elements emerge even more clearly in his California pictures where he seems to return to the spirit of Hungarian painting. In 1916, the reviewer Christian Brinton described Hungarian paintings from the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco as possessing 'a marked degree of rhythm and a rich, vibrant harmony rarely if ever encountered elsewhere...In each [painting] you meet the same deep-rooted race spirit, the same love of vivid chromatic effect, the same fervid lyric passion'. It is within these Hungarian roots that Kleitsch's interpretation of plein air painting was formed.

    In 1926, Joseph Kleitsch felt a need to broaden his talents by traveling to Europe to seek inspiration from the traditions of the masters and their surroundings. He painted throughout Europe for two years. Upon his return in 1928, he moved to the thriving artistic community of Laguna Beach. Even then a campaign was on to preserve the village of Laguna Beach, in hopes that it would continue to retain its idyllic character. Los Angeles was growing rapidly and towns that used to be separate hamlets, such as Alhambra, Fullerton, Whittier and Montebello were becoming part of one large metropolitan expanse. It was under this atmosphere that Kleitsch chose to capture street scenes in and around the village and hills of Laguna. By exemplifying the beauty of his surroundings, the hope was to instill a broader effort to save the area's serenity. In the process we have an accurate history of what the village looked like in the 1920's, as he first painted the area as early as 1922.

    Through the years Kleitsch spent painting in Laguna Beach, his brushwork becomes noticeably more expressionistic. His earlier works generally focus more on the village and the surrounding hills and coast. They are typically devoid of figures. As the years go on, Kleitsch's brush becomes looser. He is suddenly free to create more broad, colorful and passionate-filled strokes. Additionally he adds more figures to his street scenes, many with a black outline and movement to their step, the latter achieved by a quickness to the brush. The artist experiments more with a combination of quick impasto and quick strokes in some areas, interspersed with area of fine detail and Pointillist-like color combinations in others. In California, the foreground trees are reminiscent of the artist's figurative work at this time. Perhaps he meant them to stand watch over the pristine cluster of local cottages behind them, while also protecting the pedestrians as they stroll down the sidewalk. Kleitsch uses an extraordinary range of colors in this composition. Shadows stand alongside a brightly lit hillside. This painting exemplifies an artist at the peak of his artistic wisdom, where it is not enough to simply recreate a landscape, but rather create an entire kaleidoscope of both colors and stylistic techniques. The painting is both a slice of village life as well as a symbolic tale deriving from a lifetime of rich and varied artistic experience.
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