Joseph Fleck (1892 - 1977)


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Joseph Amadeus Fleck (1892-1977) signatureJoseph Amadeus Fleck, born of German speaking parents in the village of Sziklos, Austria-Hungary on August 25, 1892, saw the American Southwest through Viennese eyes. He received his first education in the arts at the Kunstgewerbeschule or Institute of Applied Arts in Vienna, which he entered in 1908. There he studied lithography, etching, and ornamental engraving, receiving a diploma around 1911.

Shortly thereafter he entered Vienna's Royal Academy of Fine Arts, where he studied under Hans Tichi, and Rudolf Bacher, two members of the Austrian Succession group. Other members of this movement, founded in 1897 to break away from more traditional styles of painting, were Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele and Oscar Kokoschka.

Pre-war Vienna, the hub of a vast multi-racial, multi-cultural Empire, was the original source of Fleck's artistic vision. But an epoch ended with the shots fired at Sarajevo. In 1915, Fleck was called into the army, as were many of his Academy classmates. Shortly thereafter he arrived on the Italian front. His artistic talents were soon discovered by officers of his regiment, and he became recognized as the unofficial regimental artist. In 1916 he returned to Vienna as a lieutenant to spend the remaining war years painting war heroes and important government figures. He completed his training at the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts in 1919.

In 1922, he emigrated to the United States, arriving in Kansas City, Missouri. He began working at a stained-glass factory owned by Tiffany and Co, rising to the position of chief designer. His solid training in portraiture soon enabled him to receive many portrait commissions. Among the most notable of these were the portrait of Confederate General George Franklin Paxton, now hanging in the Museum of the Virginia Historical Society; and the portrait of Mayor Albert I. Beech of Kansas City. Both were painted in 1924.

In early 1924, Fleck visited an exhibition of paintings by members of the Taos Society of Artists in a Kansas City Art Gallery. His curiosity aroused, he visited Taos in the summer of 1924. In 1925, he married Mable Davidson Mantz and returned to Taos to become a permanent resident. With the exception of extended painting trips to Europe in 1926 and 1930-1931 and three years as Dean of Fine Arts at the University of Missouri at Kansas City, he remained a resident of Taos until 1973. He died in Pleasanton, California in 1977.

Among his prizes and honors were the bronze medal of the Kansas City Art Institute, 1923, the silver medal of the Kansas City Art Institute, 1929, the Morris Rosenwald prize of the Art Institute of Chicago, 1927. He was also a contributor to juried national and international exhibitions sponsored by the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, the Carnegie Foundation, the Corcoran Gallery, the National Academy of Design, the Toledo Museum, and the World's Fairs in New York and San Francisco in 1939.

One-man shows included the Houston Museum, 1930; Galerie Bernheim Jeune, Paris, 1931; and the Nelson Atkins Museum, Kansas City, Missouri, 1944. Fleck was a member of the Artist's Equity Association and the Chicago Galleries Association. He served as president of the Taos Artist's Association from 1947 to 1949.

Fleck's early Taos paintings were executed in a distinctive but somewhat academic style. His style, however, evolved continuously throughout his career, ultimately touching on the impressionistic. But Fleck never forgot his Austrian roots and his attraction to Austrian expressionism.

Fleck's work is represented in the Österreichsiches Museum im Oberen Belvedere, Vienna, Austria, as well as numerous American Museums and private collections.

Source: Joseph Fleck, Jr. via Ask Art

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