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Karl Fortess (1907 – 1993)

Untitled (Collapsed Shacks), c. 1940s, oil on canvas, signed lower left, 20 ½ x 26 ½ inches, presented in a period frame


Untitled (Collapsed Shacks) is typical of Karl Fortess' exploration of depopulated Magic Realist scenes of abandoned structures in a state of decay, likely reflecting the uncertainty and angst of the 1930s and 1940s. He often portrayed an unstable world on the verge of disintegration. Fortess was born in Belgium but moved to the United States where he studied at the Art Institute of Chicago, the Art Students League and the Woodstock School of painting under Yasuo Kuniyoshi.  Fortess is associated with the Woodstock School artists and was a member of the Woodstock Art Association. During the Great Depression, he worked in WPA art projects. From the early 1930s through the 1950s, Fortess exhibited nationally at the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of Art, the Metropolitan Museum, the Woodstock Art Association, the Boston Art Museum, the Corcoran Gallery, the Salons of America, and the Carnegie Institute.  In 1946, he won a Guggenheim Fellowship and the Childe Hassam Fund purchase award in 1952.  In addition to his fine art practice, Fortess taught at the Art Students League, Brooklyn Museum Art School, Louisiana State University and Boston University’s School of Fine and Applied Arts. He is listed in Who was Who in American Art and all other standard references. His artwok is in the permanent collections of many United States Museums, including the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the National Gallery of Art and the Brooklyn Museum.


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