Art Appreciation: Celebrating Fall Colour with Franz Bischoff

"Autumn Moods" by Franz Arthur Bischoff (1864 - 1929)

Franz Bischoff was born in Austria but immigrated to the United States in 1882. Trained in ceramic decoration as a boy, he continued to further his career in porcelain painting in his new homeland. He became well-known as a leading teacher of the craft, founding the Bischoff School of Ceramic Art in Detroit and in New York City, and as a master ceramicist who manufactured many of his own glazes.

Vase decorated by Bischoff (acclaimed as "King of the Rose Painters")

He decided to settle in California in 1906, ultimately building and completing a landmark studio home at 320 Pasadena Avenue in 1908. A description of the home says: "The building was poured of solid concrete and was one-and-a half stories high. It was designed in the Renaissance style, with an imposing entry through massive oak doors with stained glass panels. The doorway was set beneath a classical pedimented portico, supported by two columns. The interior was divided between a large gallery, a studio and a complete ceramic workshop in the basement.

The gallery measured 36 feet by 40 feet. It had high, concave ceilings lighted by several half-circle skylights. The floors were of solid oak covered by old Turkish rugs and polar bear skins. All interior doors and paneling were of natural redwood in the Gothic style. The furniture was of massive oak in the Mission style. At the west end of the gallery was a huge tile-covered fireplace. The wall space throughout was covered with paintings of flowers and landscapes, and in one corner were several oak display cases containing examples of Bischoff's painted ceramics.

The painting studio had a large picture window that overlooked the Arroyo Seco, with a wide vista of the distant mountains. The studio furniture consisted of an easel, several easy chairs and low divans, all of Flemish oak."

"The Arroyo Seco, Pasadena, c1918" by Franz Bischoff
- a possible view from his studio window?

In 1912, Bischoff went on an extended tour of Europe where he studied the works of the Old Masters and the Impressionists. On his return to California, Bischoff turned to landscape painting and gradually abandoned porcelain decoration (Source: The Irvine Museum).

Although I've categorized Bischoff's works under Impressionism, I think they more accurately fall somewhere in between Impressionism and Fauvism, particularly his later works (c1920s) which show very strong, vivid colours. His background in design comes through his compositions - look how his landscapes follow clearly the rules of linear perspective, and he seems to have retained quite a bit of art nouveau graphical influence in his stylized renderings of landscape elements such as trees, rocks and mountains. This unique treatment, in addition to his use of jewel-like colour blocks, makes me feel like I'm looking st a Tiffany stained glass window.

Autumn landscape window from Tiffany Studios (1902 - 1932),
design attributed to Agnes F. Northrop (1857 - 1953) (Source: The Met)

Finally, I am closing the post with two Bischoff paintings of fall's most popular flowers - the quintessential chrysanthemums!

"Chrysanthemums" by Franz Bischoff

"Spider Mums" by Franz Bischoff

Aren't these warm colours lovely? I hope you have the opportunity of using these golden hues in your fall decorating to stave off the encroaching cooler temperatures. Pretty soon, possibly after Halloween, I'll be filling up the house and front yard with more blue-greens and reds as we head into the Christmas season but it is really nice to savour the yellows, oranges, and golds while summer is still fresh in our minds.

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