Karl Fortess

born Antwerp, Belgium 1907-died Woodstock, NY 1993
Media - portrait_image_114942.jpg - 90513
Karl Fortess at art reception (far right), around 1948. Unidentified photographer, from Konrad and Florence Ballin Cramer papers, courtesy Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Also known as
  • Karl Eugene Fortess
  • Karl E. Fortess
Antwerp, Belgium
Woodstock, New York, United States
Active in
  • Woodstock, New York, United States
  • American

Karl Fortess came to America from Belgium and studied art in Chicago and New York. In 1937 the Works Progress Administration sent him and several other artists to Alaska to document the towns, villages, and remote wilderness landscapes (Pemberton, “Alaska art museum collects WPA’s Depression works from the territory,” Columbia Daily Tribune, November 9, 2003). Fortess taught at many different schools, including Boston University School of Fine Art, where he also created an archive of interviews with more than two hundred and fifty American artists.

Related Books

1934: A New Deal for Artists
During the Great Depression, president Franklin Delano Roosevelt promised a “new deal for the American people,” initiating government programs to foster economic recovery. Roosevelt’s pledge to help “the forgotten man” also embraced America’s artists. The Public Works of Art Project (PWAP) enlisted artists to capture “the American Scene” in works of art that would embellish public buildings across the country. Although it lasted less than one year, from December 1933 to June 1934, the PWAP provided employment for thousands of artists, giving them an important role in the country’s recovery. Their legacy, captured in more than fifteen thousand artworks, helped “the American Scene” become America seen.