Langsner, Jules, 1911-1967

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1911
Death 1967

Biographical notes:

Art critic, art historian; Los Angeles, Calif.; b. 1911; d. 1967.

From the description of Jules Langsner papers, 1938-1974. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 83754925

Jules Langsner (1911-1967) was an art critic and art historian from Los Angeles, Calif.

From the description of Jules Langsner papers, circa 1910-1998, bulk, 1950-1967. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 657037881

Biography

Jules Langsner was born Julius Harold Langsner in New York, N.Y. on May 5, 1911 to Austrian immigrant parents. His family moved to a commune in Bogota, New Jersey, and later relocated to Ontario, Calif. around 1922 to start a small farm. The farm soon transformed into the Paradise Health Resort and became a place frequented by intellectuals and their families. In Ontario, he was introduced to the Pollock family, and became friends with three of their sons: Jackson, Frank, and Sanford. Langsner attended Belmont High School in Los Angeles, Calif., while many of his friends attended Manual Arts High School (also in Los Angeles). In his late teens, he became an advocate for modernist painting styles, including abstraction and surrealism. Langsner, then a budding poet, spent much of his time in Los Angeles as part of a young intellectuals group that included Phillip Goldstein (later known as Philip Guston), Jackson Pollock, Reuben Kadish, Frank Pollock, Sanford Pollock (later known as Sande McCoy), Leonard Stark, and Don Brown. When they weren't working odd jobs, Langsner and his leftist circle debated politics, philosophy and art. He was greatly affected by racism and anti-immigration and became interested in education and justice from a young age. He became interested in avant-garde painting while Kadish, Pollock and Guston were being mentored by Los Angeles artist Lorser Feitelson. Feitelson introduced the young men to post-surrealism, pastiche and film noir influences through his work. Langsner enrolled at the University of California, Los Angeles as a psychology major, then enlisted in the Army in 1944 as a social worker revising Rorschach psychodiagnostic charts. He remained in the United States for the duration of World War II. After WWII, Langsner continued to develop his professional and personal relationships in Los Angeles. He befriended a variety of artists and intellectuals, including artist and printmaker June Wayne, who would remain a dear friend until his death. His curiosity and appreciation for art and artists in Los Angeles led him to pursue art writing and criticism. In 1948, Langsner published his first article in Art & Architecture, contributing periodically until 1963. He published articles for Art News (later known as ArtNews ) from 1949-1967, followed by the Los Angeles Times from 1955-1958, Zodiac from 1959-1960, Craft horizons from 1959-1963, Art in America in 1963 and 1967, and Canadian Art in 1964. He taught at the Chouinard Art Institute and San Fernando State College from 1959-1967. Langsner's writing brought national attention to local artists, institutions, and topics. He promoted the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and other local art museums in multiple publications. In the April 1963 issue of Art in America, Langsner coined the phrase "second city" to describe Los Angeles in comparison to New York's art scene. In 1951, he published one of the first articles to embrace Simon Rodia's towers in Watts as a work of art. He promoted many artists, including Rico Lebrun, William Turnbull, Sam Francis, and Matsumi Kanemitsu. His ability to communicate with and befriend artists, as well as his ability to understand the subtleties of multiple styles, led him to pursue art curatorship. In 1957, Langsner was sponsored by the Ray Cardillo Travel Agency to visit art centers throughout Europe, and curated a Marc Chagall exhibit at the Pasadena Art Museum. Perhaps he is best known for curating the landmark exhibition "Four Abstract Classicists" in 1959, which included work by John McLaughlin, Frederick Hammersley, Karl Benjamin and Lorser Feitelson. It was in 1959 that Langsner and art historian Peter Selz originated the phrase "hard-edge painting" to describe the colors, shapes and style of abstract expressionist painting on the West Coast. His catalog for the exhibit became the criterion for the hard-edge school of painting. In 1961, Langsner was awarded a fellowship grant for advanced study in the fine arts from the Graham Foundation, and in 1964 was the recipient of a Ford Foundation grant for visual arts research. While traveling for his Ford grant, Langsner was in close correspondence with June Harwood, a hard-edge painter and in 1965, they were married. In 1966, Langsner organized and curated the first full-scale retrospective of Man Ray in the United States for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, establishing him as the pre-eminent art critic of the West Coast. Langsner died suddenly of a heart attack on September 29, 1967.

From the guide to the Jules Langsner Papers, 1941-1967, (University of California, Los Angeles. Library. Department of Special Collections.)

Jules Langsner (1911-1967) worked primarily in the Los Angeles area as a contemporary art critic, historian, and curator. He curated several seminal exhibitions of contemporary art, including the 1959-1960 show "Four Abstract Classicists" featuring the work of Southern California artists Lorser Feitelson, Karl Benjamin, Frederick Hammersley, and John McLaughlin.

Born Julius Harold Langsner in New York City on May 5, 1911, his family moved to Ontario, California in 1922. The family lived on a farm and opened the Paradise Health Resort which was run by Langsner's father, chiropractor Isadore Langsner, and was popular in Jewish and intellectual circles. In Ontario, Langsner became friends with three of the Pollack family sons, Jackson, Frank, and Sanford, as well as Philip Guston, Reuben Kadish, Leonard Stark, and Don Brown as a teenager. Guston, Kadish, and Jackson Pollock were later mentored by Lorser Feitelston which helped to foster in Langsner an interest in avant-garde painting.

Langsner went on to study philosophy at the University of California, Los Angeles. In the early 1940s, Langsner married and had a son, Drew Langsner. He divorced in 1946. In 1944, he enlisted in the United States Army and served as a psychiatric social worker and psychologist during World War II in the United States.

Art & Architecture magazine was the first to publish Langsner's art criticism in 1948. Throughout the 1950s and 60s his work was published widely in Art & Architecture as well as Art News, Art in America, Craft Horizons, Los Angeles Times, Zodiac, and others. Langsner wrote extensively about art history in both published and unpublished manuscripts, including Painting in the Modern World which he worked on until his death. Additionally, he taught art history classes at the Chouinard Art Institute, San Fernando State College, and University of Southern California and lectured for a variety of organizations and occasions.

Langsner curated several influential exhibitions in southern California, including the "Four Abstract Classicists" exhibition for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1959 and in whose catalog he and Peter Selz coined the term "Hard-Edge painting." He curated the first full-scale retrospective of Man Ray in the United States at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1966.

Langsner received a grant from the Ford Foundation in 1964 that allowed him to travel throughout Asia, the Middle East, and Europe for a year studying regional art and architecture. He wrote notes on his travels and corresponded frequently with June Harwood, a Hard-Edge painter, whom he married in Italy in 1965.

Jules Langsner died unexpectedly of a heart attack on September 29, 1967, in Los Angeles.

From the guide to the Jules Langsner papers, circa 1910s-1998, bulk 1950-1967, (Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution)

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Subjects:

  • Painting, Abstract--California
  • Painting, Abstract
  • Art--Study and teaching
  • Art critics
  • Curators--California--Los Angeles
  • Art historians
  • Art criticism
  • Curators
  • Art historians--California--Los Angeles
  • Art critics--California--Los Angeles

Occupations:

  • Art critics--United States--Archival resources
  • Art museum curators--United States--Archival resources

Places:

  • California--Los Angeles (as recorded)
  • California (as recorded)
  • California--Los Angeles (as recorded)
  • California (as recorded)