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Josef Presser and Agnes Hart papers, 1913-1980

Biographical Note

Josef Presser (1909-1967) lived and worked primarily in New York City as a painter, educator, and lecturer.
Presser was born in Lublin, Poland and immigrated with his family to Boston, Massachusetts in 1913. He showed an early affinity for art and, at the age of 12, was accepted to the Boston Museum School of Fine Arts on a four year scholarship. After completing his education, he spent several years traveling in Europe and visited the major museums of France, Italy, and Belgium before returning to America in 1931. Upon his return, Presser opened his first solo New York show at the Montross Gallery in 1931, moved to Philadelphia, painted murals as part of the Works Progress Administration program, and began receiving private commissions. By the mid-1930s, Presser was exhibiting regularly in solo shows in Philadelphia and had began accepting teaching positions. While lecturing at Iowa State University, Presser met his future wife and artist, Agnes Hart, who he married in 1941.
After moving to New York City in 1940, Presser continued to exhibit in New York galleries throughout the 1940s and 1950s, and eventually accepted teaching positions at New York University, Queens College, Cooper Union, and the Brooklyn Museum Art School, among others. Though he was familiar with the work of the abstract expressionists, Presser is known primarily for his figurative paintings featuring women, children, clowns, and horses, with the latter two subjects inspired by circuses he had traveled with in Europe. In 1940, Presser and Hart purchased studio space in Woodstock, New York where they exhibited as members of the Woodstock Artists Association. Presser's solo shows include exhibitions at Contemporary Arts Gallery, Associated American Artists Galleries, and the Vera Lazuk Gallery.
In 1965, Presser went on an extended trip abroad to Paris, and continued working until his death in 1967.
Agnes Hart (1912-1979) was born in Meridan, Connecticut and studied art at the Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, Florida and at Iowa State University. Hart was a prolific painter and printmaker of abstract forms and urban landscapes. In 1948 and 1949, she received fellowships as a guest painter at the Yaddo Foundation and exhibited her first solo show in New York City at the RoKo Gallery in 1948. She continued to exhibit regularly at New York City galleries into the 1970s, and also accepted several teaching positions, including a ten year tenure with the Art Students League of New York. She continued to paint and teach until her death in 1979.