Robert Franz Von Neumann


1888 - 1976 Born in Rostock, Mecklenburg, Germany, Robert von Neumann was a painter, lithographer, engraver, block printer, and teacher. He served in the German Army during WWI and after, between the years 1910-1914, he studied art at the Kunstgewerbe Schule in Rostock, and then at the Royal Academy and Kunstgewerbe Museum in Berlin. He also studied under painters Hans Hofmann, Emile Topler, and Frans Burke. In 1926, von Neumann came to America and decided to settle in Wisconsin because the landscape reminded him of his homeland in Germany. Arriving in Milwaukee, his first jobs were working for a commercial printing company and at the Milwaukee Journal as a part of the Art staff. In 1929, von Neumann began what became a 30-year career teaching art at the Layton School of Art in Milwaukee from 1929-1930, before moving on to the Milwaukee State Teachers College. He also taught at the Ox-Bow Summer School of Painting, in Saugatauk, Michigan, and later at the Art Institute of Chicago. Robert von Neumann is best known for his images of robust working men, engaged in everyday tasks, such as mending fishing nets, harvesting apples, or breaking for lunch or supper together. His art belongs to the Regionalist movement in American art, best known for the art of John Stuart Curry, Thomas Hart Benton, and Grant Wood. These artists wished to celebrate everyday people and their relationship with the land, and much of their subject matter also seems to be a snapshot of everyday life, seemingly mundane moments that reveal the underlying spirit of a person in his or her environment. Von Neumann's deep connection with and respect for nature is evident in his painting Shanty and Boats on the Shore, (1930) depicting the Lake Michigan shoreline near Milwaukee. Here his mastery of translating the effects of outdoor light onto the canvas with clear and bright colors and bold brushstrokes is evidence of his keen observation of the spirit of a place and a moment, as well as his German art education and meticulous draftsmanship. The focus on the small shanty and the boats on the shore remind the viewer of the work of the men and women that live there, even though they are not seen. The bright colors of the boats' hulls and the dappled sunlight falling through the trees also convey a sense of the peacefulness of the place, as if one can hear the gentle breaking of the waves on the beach and the cries of gulls. This painting is a superb example of von Neumann's skill at evoking the mood of a sunny day on the Lake Michigan shore, as well as his command of the brush and paint. Robert von Neumann died in 1976 in West Bend, Wisconsin. Selected One -Person Exhibitions: 1941 Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois 1944 Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia 1960 and 1972 Milwaukee Art Center, Wisconsin (now the Milwaukee Art Museum) The artwork of Robert von Neumann is in the following permanent collections: West Bend Art Museum, West Bend, WI Wisconsin Union Art Collection, Madison, WI Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee, Wisconsin Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris, France American Institute of Graphic Arts Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Legion of Honor Recipient of the 2007 Wisconsin Visual Artist Lifetime Achievement Award

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