Monday, November 5, 2012

Bessie Cronbach Lowenhaupt (1881-1968)

This is the birth month of Indiana artist Bessie Cronbach Lowenhaupt. Born on November 19, 1881, in Mount Vernon, a small town on the southwestern tip of the state, Bessie studied at the Art Institute of Chicago (1899-1903) and the Washington University School of Art. As a student, she created unpublished illustrations and other art. After marrying Abraham Lowenhaupt, an attorney, in 1910, she moved to Saint Louis and started a family. Bessie didn't let that keep her from her art however. Over the course of her long life, she created deceptively simple--almost primitive--paintings that place her squarely in the realm of modern art. To quote Robert E. Kohn:
Lowenhaupt revealed her artistic creed when she told [biographer Judith Saul] Stix that "a realistic picture . . . isn't interesting," and that abstract art, being "arid and lacking discipline," is also "not interesting."
Take that, American artists of the twentieth century! In any case, although she died in Saint Louis in 1968, Bessie C. Lowenhaupt is remembered even today. There was an exhibit of her work at the Saint Louis Art Museum in 1995 and articles on her life and art in newspapers and journals as recently as this year. Her papers are in the collections of the State Historical Society of Missouri Research Center in Saint Louis. The papers of her biographer, Judith Saul Stix, are in the Smithsonian Archives of American Art. Finally, my thanks to Joyce Schiller, who has written about Bessie Lowenhaupt, for bringing the artist to my attention. Ms. Schiller is curator at the Rockwell Center for American Visual Studies, at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.

Text copyright 2012 Terence E. Hanley

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