Yellow Organic Forms, Aqua Mountains, 1935
Soft graphite, ink and watercolor on stiff paper (Bristol Board)
28 5/8 x 22 5/8 inches
Estate-stamped and dated lower right, “8 35”
Edward Hagedorn (American 1902-1982)
Hagedorn was a true American Modernist who created a rich trove of powerful works on paper–drawings, watercolors, oils, and prints that reveal the hand of a master draftsman and the mind of an astute political observer. He rejected the general trend in early 20th century California of local landscapes and coastal views, becoming virtually the single voice of Expressionism, looking more to the German artists of the early 20th century than the French.
Hagedorn was critically acclaimed during his lifetime. Galka Scheyer, the collector and founder of the institution that became the Norton Simon Museum, who represented and introduced the “Blue Four” to the United States (Kandinsky, Feininger, Klee and Jawlensky) offered to exhibit his work and asked him to join the “Blue Four.” He rejected her overtures. Nevertheless, Scheyer purchased a number of his drawings that are in the Blue Four Collection at the museum.
Hagedorn’s images insist on eidetic registration: skeletons, ferocious yet somehow endearing, printed in deep black ink on off-white paper, march across Lilliputian landscapes of grim disorder and destruction; comets and volcanoes explode in fauvist colors, their other-worldly fluorescent temperas framed in black; nude female figures, exquisitely refined pen and ink, or graphite line drawings, are as economical in their means as Matisse or the neo-classical drawings of Picasso. In some of these drawings of nudes Hagedorn occasionally places a lyrical splash of watercolor or pastel reminiscent of Schiele. Among his most lyrical works of the 1920s is a series of rhythmically abstracted watercolor and ink views of Golden Gate Park, drawn in a syncretic style evoking the sensual quasi-geometries of Balthus, Derain, and early Mondrian.
The first monograph on the art of Edward Hagedorn reveals an artist powerfully in command of marks on paper, wryly observant of human folly—a gifted draftsman creating indelible images and unforgettable impressions of the most powerful forces of nature. The book is available from Denenberg Fine Arts for $60.00
From the Biography of William Clapp, “A Joyful Vision”:
“At the Fifth Annual Exhibition of the Oakland Art Gallery, 1927, the radical jury selected two nude paintings, one, Nude No. 1, by Hagedorn elicited a vociferous public protest from some local women and a public vote from museum attendees as to whether this painting should be removed or allowed to stay. The painting won overwhelming approval 79%. This precipitated the Great Oakland Art War the next year. “