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Luce Foundation Center for American Art

Sculpture: 20th century: Abstract Man
Louis Schanker



Louis Schanker

(born New York City 1903 -- died New York City 1981)

“Though much of my work is generally classified as abstract, all of my work develops from natural forms. I have great respect for the forms of nature and an inherent need to express myself in relation to these forms.” Louis Schanker, “The Patricia and Phillip Frost Collection, American Abstraction 1930-1945,” 1989


Louis Schanker left school as a teenager for the “interesting but grueling hard labor” of the circus. He then worked as a farm laborer, a gandy dancer on the Erie Railroad, and a stevedore on the Great Lakes steamers. He returned to New York in 1919 and studied drawing and painting at Cooper Union and the Art Students League. He was a founding member of the American Abstract Artists group and of The Ten, a group that protested the prominence of realism and regionalism in American art. He ran the graphic arts programs for the WPA and created murals for a variety of public buildings in New York. Schanker’s paintings, woodcuts, and carvings explored the relationship between geometric and organic forms, and often employed strong outlines and vivid colors.


Image Credits: Courtesy Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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