lois frederick - portrait

Loïs Frederick

(1930-2013)

After studying fine art at the University of Nebraska and then at the Kansas City Art Institute, Lois Frederick received in 1953 the very prestigious Fulbright award. In 1954, a very rare phenomenon, Lois Frederick won this scholarship a second time. Like many American artists, she decided to go to Paris to perfect her artistic training. The artist Loïs Frederick’s journey logically finds its place in the American cultural excitement in Paris. Lois Frederick thus remains in close contact with her culture of origin and therefore remains a fundamentally American artist.

Exhibition

Works

For more information on available artworks by Loïs Frederick,
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lois frederick - peinture de 1960

Untitled 1960
Pastel and India ink on paper
26 x 37,5 cm / 10.2 x 14.8 in.

lois frederick - papier 1960

Untitled 1960
Gouache and India ink on paper mounted on cardboard
52 x 75 cm / 20.5 x 29.5 in.

lois frederick - peinture de 1960

Untitled 1960
Gouache on paper mounted on cardboard
52 x 75 cm / 20.5 x 29.5 in.

lois frederick - peinture 1969

Untitled 1969
Acrylic and gouache on paper mounted on cardboard
32 x 43 cm / 12.6 x 16.9 in.
Signed and dated lower right

lois frederick - peinture de 1979

Untitled 1979
Gouache and acrylic on paper mounted on cardboard
75 x 54 cm / 29.5 x 21.2 in.
Signed and dated lower right

lois frederick - peinture de 1980

Untitled 1980
Acrylic and charcoal on paper mounted on cardboard
32 x 43 cm / 12.6 x 16.9 in.

lois frederick - peinture 1980

Untitled 1980
Acrylic and gouache on paper mounted on cardboard
37,5 x 54 cm / 14.6 x 21.2 in.

lois frederick - peinture de 1984

Untitled 1984
Acrylic and India ink on paper mounted on cardboard
75 x 54 cm / 29.5 x 21.2 in.
Signed and dated lower left

lois frederick - peinture 2000

Untitled 2000
Acrylic and gouache on paper mounted on cardboard
75 x 107,5 cm / 29.5 x 42.3 in.

Video

Virtual visit of the exhibition “LOÏS FREDERICK: VITAL COLOUR”,  from May 20 to June 10, 2020.

Biography

Loïs Frederick: Vital Colour

Loïs Frederick was born in 1930 in Hay Springs, a Nebraska village with a population of 570 in the American Great Plains region. Nothing destined her to become an artist, and yet at a very early age she developed a feeling for colour. After winning a Fulbright award (twice!), this artist spent all her life in Paris. Loïs Frederick is nevertheless a completely American artist.

Landscapes of Nebraska

The American landscapes of her childhood doubtless left a mark on Loïs Frederick’s work. Between the Great Plains, the Rocky Mountains and the National Forest of Nebraska, these landscapes of contrasts and huge expanses nurtured her imagination. From this, the artist would retain horizontal formats and compositions built up from a balance of masse. The palette of her early works was natural, inspired by landscapes. She brought together blues, greens, blacks and earth colours.

Vital Colour

Loïs Frederick, like a true colour magician, developed her palette over the 1950s and 1960s. She added halftones: pinks, purples, oranges, turquoises….This great colourist combined with skill primary and secondary colours, while continuing to give them structure by using black brushes. The gesture is slower, meditative. Colour took precedence over form. It became both subject and medium in Loïs Frederick’s work.

Jean Baudrillard described American landscapes in his book America: “the amazement of the heat is metaphysical there. Even the colours, pastel blues, mauves, lilacs, result from a slow, timeless, geological combustion. The mineral character of the subsoil surfaces in crystalline plants. All the natural elements suffer by fire. The desert is no longer a landscape, it is the pure form that results from the abstraction of all the others.” [1]

Loïs Frederick & American Abstraction

In Art and Culture, the art critic Clement Greenberg evoked the great painters of the School of New York. His comments about Hans Hofmann can also apply to the works of Loïs Frederick: “Here colour determines form from the inside as it were; thick splotches, welts, smears and ribbons of paint dispose themselves into intelligible shapes the instant they hit the surface; out of the fullness of colour come drawing and design”. [2] Clement Greenberg also evokes the work of Mark Rothko, which Loïs Frederick discovered in 1950 and left a huge impression on her.

At the end of the 1960s, a new medium revolutionized Loïs Frederick’s painting: acrylic. It allowed her to enrich her palette even more. The colours are bright, dazzling, and fluorescent. Colour invaded everything and Loïs Frederick joined her American compatriots of the Colour Field and All Over movements. The painting no longer had any meaning, no borders, and no centre. Clement Greenberg said about Barnett Newman, Mark Rothko and Clyfford Still: “They attempt to expel every reminiscence of sculptural illusion by creating a counter-illusion of light alone – a counter illusion which consists of the projection of an indeterminate surface of warm and luminous colour in front of the actual painted surface.” [3]

Essential Light

On paper, Loïs Frederick brilliantly combined gouache, ink, acrylic, pastel, charcoal etc… All the techniques, finishes, all the materials, all the colours work for the light. This what Loïs Frederick sought ultimately: to recreate the effects of light. Like late Monet and like the Abstract Expressionists, Loïs Frederick plunges us into a poetic universe that is mysterious and meditative, built up on transparencies. She brings us back to these American landscapes with their unlimited horizontality, where time seems to stop: “It’s a sort of suspended eternity where the year is renewed very day. With the certainty that it will be like this every day, that each evening there will be this rainbow of all the colours of the spectrum in which the light, after having reigned all day in its invisible form, is still analysed in the evening according to all the nuances of which it is comprised, before disappearing. The nuances are already those of the instantaneous rainbow that goes on fire in the wind on the ridge of Pacific waves.” [4]

In 1986, Loïs Frederick lost her husband Gérard Schneider, the great pioneer of Lyrical Abstraction. She put her own art aside completely for fifteen years to concentrate on promoting the work of this great artist. In the shadows, Loïs Frederick passed from being a great woman artist to being the wife of a great artist.

At the start of the 2000s, it was a car headlight piercing the fog that brought Loïs Frederick back to her search for light. She returned to painting, pushed by a vital impetus “what haunts the American mind is that the lights are extinguished.” [5] She created sublime solar explosions, where the diluted colour illuminated a white background; and dazzling lights and shadows, where bright colours contrast with a dark background.

Loïs Frederick chose to spend her life in France. However, like her transatlantic compatriots living in Paris, she nevertheless remained an American painter. Nurtured by the memory of the landscapes of her childhood, Loïs Frederick created an authentic and personal body of work.

[1] Jean Baudrillard, Amérique, Paris, Grasset, 1995

[2] Clement Greenberg, Art and Culture, Boston, Beacon Press, 1971

[3] Clement Greenberg, Art and Culture, Boston, Beacon Press, 1971

[4] Jean Baudrillard, Amérique, Paris, Grasset, 1995

[5] Jean Baudrillard, Amérique, Paris, Grasset, 1995

© Diane de Polignac Gallery / Mathilde Gubanski
Translation: Jane Mac Avock
lois frederick - atelier

Loïs Frederick , An American artist in Paris

After studying the Fine Arts at the University of Nebraska, and then at the Kansas City Art Institute, Loïs Frederick won a highly prestigious Fulbright award. This fellowship was created in 1946 to promote cultural exchanges between the USA and Europe. In 1954, Loïs Frederick won this award a second time, a very rare phenomenon. Like many American artists, she decided to go to Paris to complete her artistic education.

Franco-American Exchanges

The movement of American artists towards Europe was encouraged by the G.I. Bill voted in 1944. This American law financed the studies abroad of demobilized soldiers of the Second World War. The beneficiaries were encouraged to pursue their interests, which explains the very large number that chose artistic careers.
The president Dwight D. Eisenhower launched a programme of cultural exchanges called “People-to-People” in 1956. It was intended to turn American students abroad into ambassadors. During the 1950s, Paris hosted over 2000 students from across the Atlantic in this context. Some, such as Loïs Frederick, stayed permanently.

“Paris is a Celebration” [1] : the new Hemingways

During the 1920s, major American writers worked in Paris: Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, etc.. Their writings created the image of an elegant and festive Paris in the American mind. In 1964, the publication of Hemingway’s memoirs established the idea of Paris as a moveable feast. Inspired by this, a generation of American writers settled in Post-War Paris. These included John Breon, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Mary McCarthy, James Baldwin, and Truman Capote.
The writer James Jones moved to Paris in 1958. He was already a celebrity in the USA. His book, From Here to Eternity, published in 1951 had been a huge success. In his Parisian apartment, James Jones hosted many American personalities: politicians (such as the New York senator Jacob Javits), celebrities (such as Jean Seberg, wife of the novelist Romain Gary) and writers (such as Henry Miller). James Jones wrote about the work of the American painters Alice Baber and her husband Paul Jenkins.
The connection between American artists and writers was reinforced by the many exhibitions in English language bookshops. Le Mistral¸ a bookshop owned by the former American GI George Whitman and the English bookshop created by the French woman, Gaïte Frogé, partner of the American painter Norman Rubington, were noteworthy. These bookshop-galleries played an essential part in the circulation of English language books and magazines and were also exhibition venues and theatres for the first performances of poetry.

Artistic Education in Paris

The American artists studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, the Académie Julian, at La Grande Chaumière, as well as in the studios of the sculptor Ossip Zadkine and the painter Fernand Léger. These two artists had fled to the USA during the war and naturally hosted American artists in their Parisian studios when they returned. The abstract painter Henri Goetz, who was of American origin, opened up his studio while Sonia Delaunay also hosted several foreign artists.
Although beneficiaries of the G.I. Bill had to register at a university, there was no penalty for not actually attending classes and some artists preferred a more free form of education, even self-teaching. Ellsworth Kelly, who was a beneficiary of the G.I. Bill explained that Paris became “a third level university of free association, without classes, that was fully paid for”. [2]
Time spent in Paris became a real form of artistic emancipation and experimentation

The influence of European Culture

American artists admired the old masters of the Louvre and the Musée de Cluny. Paris was a temple of western art. According to the painter Shirley Goldfarb “You have to see the Mona Lisa at the Louvre, it’s part of an artist’s profession”. [3]
American artists were also fascinated by the “late” Monet. The Musée de l’Orangerie reopened in 1952, allowing them to discover the Grandes décorations (Great Decorations): eight wall paintings , all two metres high, showing flowering waterlilies on water. The immersive display of the works in a room at the museum, designed by Monet himself, amazed the artists that saw these paintings as a prefiguration of a form of non-geometric abstraction. Sam Francis thus claimed to make “a pure version of the Monet of the final period”. [4] Ellsworth Kelly, Joan Mitchell and Philip Guston visited Giverny: it was an aesthetic shock for them. Ellsworth Kelly said “I remember one work above all, it was huge, and was completely white, covered with a thick layer of paint. There was a little orange and possibly some pink and light green. (…) and the scale was also very impressive. (…) when I saw them, I realized that I wanted to make paintings of that size, the size of walls. (…) the day after my trip to Giverny, I made a green painting, a monochrome. I had already created paintings with six coloured panels but I wondered if I could do one in only one colour. This was the influence that Monet had on my work.” [5]

New York: the New Capital of Art

This was the age of abstraction on both sides of the Atlantic. Abstract Expressionism was triumphant in the USA and Jackson Pollock was its figurehead. Little by little, New York took over from Paris as the world art capital. This victory was doubtless confirmed in 1964 when Robert Rauschenberg was the first American artist to win the Grand Prize of the Venice Biennale. Europe in this way recognized the talent of this great American artist.

American Women Artists

American women artists occupied an important place on the Parisian art scene.
Joan Mitchell arrived in Paris in 1948. This first visit was made possible by a grant from the Art Institute of Chicago. After this, she spent several summers in the French capital. She wrote about these trips to her partner from New York, Michael Goldberg: “It’s warm at last here […] I might go around the museums again […]. I’m still not doing anything, I see people, I wander […] sometimes I draw by the Seine. […] I draw at the Louvre. I spent all day yesterday at the Louvre – Paris is deserted but the Louvre is full of unbearable languages, especially the ones from the North, the wild scenes by Rubens – David – Surrealism – […] I can’t describe the Louvre…”. [6] In 1959, she settled permanently in Paris to be with the Canadian painter Jean-Paul Riopelle. As for Loïs Frederick, in 1956 she married Gérard Schneider, the great pioneer of lyrical abstraction, and also stayed in France for the rest of her life.
Lee Krasner, one of the most important figures of the New York School, visited Paris in 1956. She wrote to her friends that the Louvre went beyond “anything [she] could have imagined”. She was staying with her friend Paul Jenkins, another American painter in Paris, when she got a call from New York telling her that her husband Jackson Pollock had died in a car crash.

The artist Nancy Spero went to Paris to study with André Lhote. A graduate of the Art Institute of Chicago (like Joan Mitchell), she had settled in Indiana with her husband the painter Léon Golub. Nancy Spero then devoted most of her time to educating their two young children. These two artists felt marginalized in the New York scene and so chose Paris to give a new momentum to their career.

Difficult Living Conditions

In Paris, living conditions were hard for artists. Everything was in short supply and winters were cold. Paris did not yet have the modern comforts that were familiar to Americans “an unfavourable exchange rate, limited resources in many cases, inadequate housing” [7] commented the art critic, John Devoluy who was responsible for organizing an exhibition of former beneficiaries of the G.I. Bill from Paris. He also added that these artists suffered from “bitter intellectual competition, the constant doubts that beset all true artists and which amplified the status of expatriate, recurring homesickness, […] the difficulties of using a foreign language [and] unfamiliar habits.”

The American Communities in Paris

These difficult living conditions reinforced solidarity among artists exiled from across the ocean. They shared resources, studios, contacts… A community spirit was created and was reinforced. The Café du Dragon at Saint-Germain became the HQ of the group that gravitated around Sam Francis: Norman Bluhm, Lawrence Calcagno and Al Held. It was in this spirit of camaraderie that the painter Ellsworth Kelly met the composer John Cage, the artist Alice Baber met the gallerist Colette Robert, and the painter Paul Jenkins lent his Paris studio to his friend Joan Mitchell. Larry Rivers, a G.I. Bill artist, shared his studio with the Franco-American artist Niki de Saint Phalle. In 1961, she invited Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns to participate in her Tirs à la carabine (Shooting Pieces). Niki de Saint Phalle thus played an essential part in exchanges between Parisian Nouveaux Réalistes artists and neo-Dada artists from New York. Perfectly bilingual, the creator of the iconic Nanas was the perfect interpreter and grouped around her a community of American artists. In 1950, G.I. Bill artists led by the painter Paul Keene established the Galerie Huit: a co-operative intended to provide an exhibition space to American artists in Paris. It was managed by the artists and a committee, which was renewed every six months, chose the exhibition themes. In 1956, the Le Monde critic, Michel Conil-Lacoste was enthusiastic, “about the spirit of fraternity of the young Americans in Paris” and evoked the Galerie Huit as “a sort of Greenwich Village institution in Paris.” [8]

Affirmed Americanness

Like Loïs Frederick, the poet John Ashbery received a Fulbright award and moved to Paris in 1958. He met the American writer Harry Mathews there, who was at the time married to Niki de Saint Phalle. In 1966, John Ashbery published an article about these Americans in Paris. He refused the term “expatriates”, showing on the contrary the very strong link that connected these artists to their home country, indicating that they remained above all American artists. For him, they came to Paris to keep their “Americanness” intact in an environment where this feeling could best take root and blossom. The calm and isolation of exile combined to complete this perilous experiment which, when it succeeds can culminate in a form of exciting art, independent of its environment.” [9]
The Americans of Paris positioned themselves in this way as representing American Art, neither exiles, nor refugees, but ambassadors of their country in Europe.

Loïs Frederick’s path fits logically into the American cultural effervescence in Paris. She thus stayed in close contact with her original culture and so remained a fundamentally American artist. Loïs Frederick dies in 2013 in Paris.

Bibliographic reference: Elisa Capdevila, Des Américains à Paris – Artistes et bohèmes dans la France de l’après-guerre, Malakoff, Armand Colin, 2017

[1] Translator’s note: This is the English translation of “Paris est une fête”, the French title of A Moveable Feast.[Cited by Merle

[2] Cited by Merle Shipper in Americans in Paris, the 50’s, exhibition catalogue, Northridge Fine Art Gallery, 22 October-30 November 1979, California State University, 1979

[3] Shirley Goldfarb, Carnets. Montparnasse, 1971-1980, Quai Voltaire, 1992, p. 193

[4] Éric de Chassey, La Violence décorative : Matisse dans l’art américain, Nîmes, Jacqueline Chambon, 1998, p. 391

[5] Yve-Alain Bois et al., Ellsworth Kelly: les années françaises, 1948-1954, [galerie nationale du Jeu de Paume, 17 March-24 May 1992], Éditions du Jeu de Paume, 1992, 211 p.

[6] Letter from Joan Mitchell to Michael Goldberg, undated. Michael Goldberg Papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution

[7] John Devoluy, “Veterans Exhibit Art”, 1948, undated publication. Bizinsky Papers, Archives of American Art

[8]  Michel Conil-Lacoste, “The American Artist in Paris”, The New York Times, 8 January 1956

[9] “American Sanctuary in Paris”, Artnews Annual, 1966, cited in John Ashbery, Reported Sightings, Art Chronicles. 1957-1987, Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University Press, 1991, p. 85-97

© Diane de Polignac Gallery / Mathilde Gubanski
Translation: Jane Mac Avock
lois frederick - portrait paris

SELECTED COLLECTIONS

Selected collections

Denver, Denver Art Museum

Kansas City, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

Lincoln, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Nantes, Musée des Arts

Neuchâtel (Switzerland), Musée d’Art et d’Histoire

Paris, Centre national d’Art contemporain

SELECTED EXHIBITIONS

Selected exhibitions

Artists West of the Mississipi, Denver Art Museum, (purchase award), 1953

Mid-America exhibition, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, (purchase award), 1954

Salon de la Jeune Peinture, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris, 1954 & 1955

Peintres abstraits américains de Paris, Galerie Arnaud, Paris, travelling exhibition in Germany, 1956

Salon des Réalités Nouvelles, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris, 1957-1959

Salon des Surindépendants, Paris, 1962

L’École de Paris, Galerie Charpentier, Paris, 1963

Salon d’Automne, Grand Palais, Paris, 1970-1983

Salon Grands et Jeunes d’aujourd’hui, Pavillon Baltard, Paris, 1971-1974

Salon de Mai, Galerie de la Défense, Paris, 1976-1978

Loïs Frederick, peintures et gouaches, Le Grand- Cachot-de-Vent, Vallée de la Brévine (Neuchâtel – Switzerland), 1984

Les Années 1950, travelling exhibition in France, 1985

Aspect de l’Art abstrait des années 50, traveling exhibition in France, 1988-1989

Loïs Frederick solo show, Galerie Diane de Polignac, Paris, 2015

SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY

Selected bibliography

Michel Faucher, Loïs Frederick, extract Cimaise n°186, January-February 1987, Paris

Loïs Frederick, exhibition catalog, Galerie Diane de Polignac, 2015

Alexandre Crochet, “An American woman in Paris” , article in Le quotidien de l’art, July 8th 2015

Art Gallery Diane de Polignac » Artists » Loïs Frederick