Distinguished Artist Series

 

Franz A. Bischoff

1864-1929

by Jean Stern

 

 

It would be difficult to classify Franz Bischoff into any single school of painting. He was certainly influenced by the Impressionists, as seen in his handling of paint, his treatment of color in his earlier works and his love of open-air painting. Yet he moves into advanced color handling and would probably be more at home among the Post-Impressionists, like Van Gogh and Gauguin. An interesting little painting is The Sower, after Van Gogh, possibly painted in Europe and at a time when Van Gogh's works were among the "avant-garde" of art. Likewise, a unique painting of San Pedro harbor, painted entirely in sealing waxes, is strongly suggestive of Van Gogh.

Many of his later works, such as Clouds Drifting Over the Mountains and his Utah landscapes suggest a slight flirtation with Expressionism, with a bold juxtaposition of colors, reminiscent of the Fauves' aim to "liberate color from its role in nature," and explore the psychological power of color. A late group of small panels painted in Big Pine Canyon, near Bishop, California, show a remarkable progression, ending with the provocative mountainscape painted in moody tones of green and purple.

In summation, Bischoff demonstrates that he was first and last an exceptional colorist. Among a multitude of Southern California painters who endlessly present the beautiful mountains, the bright, sunny landscapes and the elegant, graceful eucalyptus trees, Bischoff stands out for his enlightened handling of color, refreshingly evident in his paintings of these same scenes. We clearly recognize this genius today, yet in his time he was both blessed and damned for his use of color: "Bischoff couldn't give us bad color if he tried, but he can give us patches of color that don't belong to landscapes and he can--and does--give us small areas of paint that are not, as mere paint, en rapport with the areas beyond them. He sometimes employs two different methods of laying paint in the same canvas and that fault annoys us." Today, more than fifty years later, we find it delightful.

From top to bottom: Woman at Fountain, oil on canvas, 6 3/4 x 10 inches; Woman at Laguna Beach, oil on canvas, 6 3/4 x 9 3/4 inches; Stylized Mountains, oil on board, 13 x 19 inches.

 

 

Editor's notes:

Text and images courtesy of De Rus Fine Arts and Fine Arts Books, 9100 Artesia Boulevard, Bellflower, CA 90706, (562) 920-1312, and in Laguna Beach, CA (949) 376-3785. This essay was published by TFAO on January 21, 2002 with permission of De Rus Fine Arts and Fine Arts Books and the author.

TFAO has located another short biography of Bischoff at the website of The Irvine Museum.

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