Skip to main content

Lorser Feitelson and Helen Lundeberg papers, circa 1890s-2002

Biographical Note

Art instructor and painter Lorser Feitelson (1898-1978) lived and worked in Los Angeles with his wife Helen Lundeberg (1908-1999), also one of southern California's leading painters. Together, Feitelson and Lundeberg founded the movement known as Subjective Classicism, or Post-surrealism. Their work had a great influence on southern California art and they formed many relationships with artists and critics of the area.
Lorser Feitelson was born in Savannah, Georgia on February 11, 1898, and grew up in New York City. By the age of twelve, he was painting in oils, and three years later he began to paint in earnest after attending the Armory Show. At the age of eighteen, Feitelson had his own studio in New York City. Over the next few years, he met other artists, including Arthur Davies, Walter Pach, and John Sloan. From 1919 to 1926, Feitelson lived in Paris and traveled to New York to exhibit; he also spent some time in Italy. In 1927, Feitelson moved to Los Angeles, the city that would remain his home for the rest of his life. There he met his wife and artist, Helen Lundeberg, and married in 1933.
Feitelson taught at the Chouinard Art Institute and the Stickney Memorial School of Art, became involved in the operations of the Centaur Gallery, and helped to found the Stanley Rose Gallery and the Hollywood Gallery of Modern Art. Beginning with the first Post-surrealist exhibition 1934, Feitelson and Lundeberg's work was exhibited at the San Francisco Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Museum, and was included in the Museum of Modern Art's Fantastic Art, Dada and Surrealism exhibition of 1937. Feitelson continued to create Post-surrealist paintings until 1942. During this same time, Feitelson also served as the Supervisor of Murals, Painting, and Sculpture for the Southern California Works Progress Administration Federal Arts Project.
In 1944, Feitelson began to paint abstract shapes that he referred to as "magical forms." Feitelson continued working in an abstract manner throughout the fifties, and in 1959 was included by Jules Langsner in the exhibition Four Abstract Classicists along with Karl Benjamin, Frederick Hammersley, and John McLaughlin. From this exhibition emerged the term "hard edge" painting, which referred to the presence of geometric shapes and flat pictorial space in the work of these artists. During the final two decades of his life, Feitelson continued to work regularly, and continued to explore abstraction.
Feitelson taught for many years at the Art Center School and was a visiting professor at the University of Illinois, Urbana. He also hosted the television program Feitelson on Art from 1956-1963, as well as serving as a frequent guest on the program Cavalcade of Books to discuss art publications. Lorser Feitelson died in 1978.
Helen Lundeberg was born in Chicago, Illinois on June 24, 1908. At the age of four, her family moved to Pasadena, where she attended Pasadena High School and Junior College. In the spring of 1930, a family friend sponsored Lundeberg's tuition to attend classes at the Stickney Memorial School of Art. That summer Lundeberg met Lorser Feitelson, who had recently taken over the teaching of her construction and composition class. The following year, Lundeberg's work was included in an exhibition for the first time. By 1933, Lundeberg had a solo exhibition at the Stanley Rose Gallery. Throughout the 1930s, Lundeberg painted in a Post-surrealist manner and created some of her best known works including "Double Portrait of the Artist in Time" (1935). She also began working for the California Works Progress Administration Federal Art Project in 1936. Over the next six years, she designed murals for libraries, high schools, and parks. She and Feitelson married in 1933.
During the next five decades, Lundeberg created a distinctive and diverse body of work that included surreal images of floating mountains and falling skies, austere landscapes and architectural forms, and abstract works with brilliant colors. She remained from the 1930s to the time of her death in 1999 one of the leading and most respected figures in southern California art. Her work has been exhibited in the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and acquired by the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, and the Whitney Museum of American Art.