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Franz Bischoff

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Franz Bischoff
Early 20th Century Painter
The following appears on AskArt from the Fleischer Museum:

An Austrian by birth, an American by naturalization and a master ceramic decorator by trade, Franz A. Bischoff made a fateful visit to California in 1900. He was thirty-six, and the climate and scenery so captivated him that he initiated what was to be a major change in his life--from being a celebrated East Coast china painter to becoming a masterful Western landscape painter. He was twenty-one when he emigrated from Austria to the United States in 1885.

Having been trained in applied design, watercolor painting and ceramic decoration, he found work as a china decorator in a New York factory. He continued this type of work in Pittsburgh and later in Fostoria, Ohio, where he met and married Bertha Greenwald. They had two children, a daughter, Frances and a son, Oscar. Pursuing a job offer, Bischoff moved his family to Dearborn, Michigan, in 1892. Before long, he opened his own studio, producing ceramics and teaching classes in china decorating.

In his workshop he formulated and manufactured many of his own ceramic colors. He opened a second school in New York and participated in exhibitions, winning awards and earning a reputation as the "King of the Rose Painters,"Riding high in his trade with an established reputation and an apparently abundant income, Bischoff, in 1906, left New York, Dearborn and his business behind and moved to Los Angeles.

Setting up a temporary studio in the Blanchard Building, he began the planning and arrangements to build what surely must have been his dream home and studio. It was completed in 1908--a large and impressive building of Italian Renaissance style located on the Arroyo Seco in Pasadena. Besides living quarters, it included a large gallery for public exhibitions, a complete ceramic workshop and a painting studio with a superb view of the wooded canyon and distant mountains. This natural setting was the subject of a majority of his early landscape paintings and later, although he traveled extensively--to the Sierras and the coast from Laguna Beach to Monterey--he never failed to find inspiration there.

His success as an easel painter in California was immediate--both with the critics and the public. Reviewing an exhibition in 1909, Anderson wrote of his landscape paintings: "They are, indeed, very strong sketches, occasionally fine in color, excellent in composition and full of genuine and most reverent love for nature...There can be no doubt, it seems to me, that at no very distant day this gifted artist will be numbered among the strongest of Southern California's landscape painters."

Although he taught classes, produced ceramics and ceramic materials and continued to paint flowers, Bischoff devoted most of his time to the painting of landscapes and scenes of everyday life--from fields and farms to fishing wharves. He traveled to Europe in 1912, remaining almost a year and visiting Naples, Capri, Rome, Munich, Paris and London. He studied the Old Masters and the French Impressionists and sketched and painted in oil and watercolor.

In the 1920's he traveled to the Sierras and the coast of Northern California and, in 1928, the year before he died, he made a trip to Utah, painting boldly colorful scenes of Zion National Park. His style ranged from impressionists through post-impressionistic, and later it even showed the influence of Expressionism.

Stern observed, "Many of his later works...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."

That he was a superb colorist is a strongly recurring theme among his critics, who often credited this to his china-painting background. The distinguished and highly successful artisan who raised china painting to a fine art form became, in the gentle climate and scenic environment of California, a plein air painter who left a rich legacy of expressive works which "reflect enchantment with an amicable frontier."


Westphal, Ruth, Plein Air Painters of California, The Southland. Westphal Publishing, Irvine, California 1982.

Hughes, Edan Milton, Artists in California 1786-1940

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