Faces, c. 1930/40s, oil on board, 38 x 24 inches, signed lower right, exhibited Cincinnati Art Galleries, Stanley Bielecky, The American Scene, 1988; illustrated in the accompanying catalog at plate #25.
About the Painting
Faces is one of Stanley Bielecky’s best industrial works depicting both labor and capital. Living and working in East Chicago (Indiana) afforded Bielecky an opportunity to study first-hand the factories and workers of America’s Rust Belt. When reviewing one of Bielecky’s solo exhibitions in 1935 which contained ten works depicting scenes of East Chicago’s docks and steel mills, The Times (Hammond Indiana), noted, “Mr. Bielecky is one artist who didn’t have to go off in search of the ‘Ruins of the Old World’ or the ‘Landscapes of California’ for his inspiration; but rather, found fitting subjects in his own surroundings – that alone is admirable and noteworthy at this time.” The impulse to paint the local scene, whether urban or rural, was picking up steam by the mid-1930s, as the American artworld thinkers and institutions praised a return to native subject matter. Lacking thousands of years of material culture, nothing at the time was considered more American than a factory and the workers who powered the nation’s industrial might, which helped to drag the country out of the Great Depression and eventually out produced the Axis powers during World War II.
About the Artist
Stanley Bielecky was an Indiana artist who painted the American scene, from the factories and workers around East Chicago to the bucolic settings of Mackinac Island. Born in Germany, Bielecky moved at a young age with his family first to Pennsylvania and then to the east side of Chicago (Illinois). Although his parents could not afford formal art training, Bielecky’s early works won competitions and scholarships and he started to attend weekend classes at the Art Institute of Chicago. Later, he attended the Minneapolis Institute of Art between 1930 and 1934, where he won the Edward M. Johnson scholarship. After graduation, Bielecky returned to the Art Institute of Chicago, where he attended additional classes until 1937. In 1938, he won a Tiffany Foundation Fellowship. In 1935, Bielecky was honored with a solo exhibition at the Hoosier Salon Gallery. Despite his artistic success, like many artists, Bielecky struggled financially during the Great Depression and often worked odd jobs in addition to taking on commercial art projects which helped keep him afloat. Bielecky also obtained a teaching position as an art instructor at the Calumet Center of Indiana University in East Chicago (Indiana). He later taught at Valparaiso University in 1941 and again after World War II. During the war, Bielecky worked as a camouflage artist in the European Theater. Bielecky continued to teach painting at Valparaiso University through 1957, while maintaining a private studio in East Chicago (Indiana) until 1970 when ill health forced his retirement. Beginning in the late 1930s, Bielecky’s works were accepted into juried exhibitions across the country, including at the Detroit Art Institute, the San Francisco Museum of Art, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Albright-Knox Gallery and the Toledo Museum of Art. He won several prizes along the way, including the Marjorie Beth Maxon Prize at the Detroit Institute of Art. Cincinnati Art Galleries honored Bielecky with a solo retrospective in 1988, where Faces was exhibited.