Published: January 18, 2011
The Pasadena Museum of California Art presents “Gardens and Grandeur: Porcelains and Paintings by Franz A. Bischoff,” the most inclusive retrospective to date. The exhibition highlights both Bischoff’s early ceramic work, with close to two-dozen pieces included, as well as his later practice on canvas. His exquisite rendering of flowers, particularly roses, earned Bischoff the nickname, “King of the Rose Painters.” The exhibit is on view through March 20.
Born in Bomen, Austria, Bischoff trained early on at a local craft school before he went to Vienna to study painting, design and porcelain decoration. After immigrating to New York City in 1885, he was able to market his skills as a china decorator and quickly gained prominence as one of the preeminent china painters of his day. He founded the Bischoff School of Ceramic Art in both Detroit and New York, where he developed his own special glazes, and his porcelains were included in the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. He lived in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Ohio before finally settling in Pasadena in 1906.
In California, Bischoff’s work turned to landscape paintings, with an emphasis on the plein air style. The artist drew inspiration from California’s sun-kissed views and its distinctive light and atmosphere, painting vistas from Monterey Bay and Laguna Beach to the Sierra Nevada Mountains. He joined two of Southern California’s most notable art associations, the California Art Club and the Laguna Beach Art Association, and soon became one of the leading members of a group of California Impressionist painters that included William Wendt, Carl Oscar Borg and Guy Rose.
In 1912, he returned to Europe to study the Old Masters and French Impressionism, which helped expand his use of composition. His work after this period shifted to a more pronounced palette, which allowed for a vibrant juxtaposition of complementary colors. His dramatic use of color was even described as suggestive of Fauvism.
Through the 1920s, he continued to paint the Southern California coastlines and mountains, as well as the desert near Palm Springs. Some of his most charming works were painted in the small central California village of Cambria. In 1928, he and his artist friend John Christopher Smith traveled to Utah, where they painted in Zion National Park. He died at home on February 5, 1929.
“Gardens and Grandeur” examines Bischoff’s lifelong foray into diverse subject matter and varied materials.
This exhibition is organized by the Pasadena Museum of California Art and guest-curated by Jean Stern, the executive director of the Irvine Museum. The exhibit will also travel to the Crocker Art Museum and the Irvine Museum, accompanied by a new monograph on the artist by Stern.
The Pasadena Museum of California Art is at 490 East Union Street. For information, www.pmcaonline.org or 626-568-3665.
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