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    Sale 2255

    The Modern Age: The Collection of Alice Lawrence

    5 - 6 November 2008, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 51

    Louis Lozowick (1892-1973)


    Price Realised  


    Louis Lozowick (1892-1973)
    signed 'Louis Lozowick' (on the reverse prior to lining)
    oil on canvas
    22½ x 13 in. (57.2 x 33 cm.)
    Painted circa 1922

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    Born in Russia, Louis Lozowick emigrated to the United States in 1906 at the age of fourteen. Following studies at the National Academy of Design in New York and at Ohio State University, he traveled across the country encountering sights and experiences of the burgeoning nation that would serve as the basis for a series of later works including Pittsburgh, which venerate the industrial aspect of various American cities.

    The impetus for this series was Lozowick's return visit to Russia and Europe, where he traveled from 1920 until 1924. In Moscow, Paris and Berlin, he was greeted by societies that were infatuated with American culture and technology. According to Wanda Corn, "everywhere he traveled in postwar Europe--Paris, Berlin, and Moscow--people wanted to hear about his American life. The locals peppered him with questions. In Moscow they asked about American machines and wanted to hear about Henry Ford and Thomas Edison. Theater students wanted to know not only about theater in the United States but about the Ford factory in Detroit and the steel mills of Pittsburgh." (The Great American Thing: Modern Art and National Identity, 1915-1935, Berkeley, California, 1999, p. 109).

    Lozowick responded to this foreign interest in American culture with a group of paintings, including Pittsburgh, which simultaneously manifest his own fascination with American industry. Other artists such as Marsden Hartley and George Grosz were also painting reactionary works to this phenomenon. "Lozowick, for his part, seized on the Berliner's fascination with American skyscrapers and factories and initiated a series of cubist paintings based on 'typical American industrial and mechanical subjects,' rendered in an 'American style.' He devoted a canvas each to 'the skyscrapers of New York, the grain elevators of Minneapolis, the steel mills of Pittsburgh, the oil wells of Oklahoma, the copper mines of Butte, [and] the lumber yards of Seattle," a virtual catalogue of those architectural and industrial forms Europeans exalted as typically American." (The Great American Thing: Modern Art and National Identity, 1915-1935, p. 112).

    Pittsburgh is a dynamic and reductive celebration of American industry that is constructed of angular and cylindrical forms. Lozowick omits specific architectural detail in favor of simplified geometric shapes to denote buildings and smokestacks and employs a reduced palette of red, white and gray tones. There is a repetition of forms throughout the work, endowing it with a sense of unity and cohesion while alluding to mass production. The compression of pictorial space into a series of planes, and the partially distorted perspective, which allows for the depiction of multiple sides of the buildings, recalls Cubism. There is an emphasis on strong diagonals, in areas creating an almost prismatic effect, as Lozowick reverently layers the industrial forms into an imposing visual symphony. This aspect of Pittsburgh is reminiscent of the work of the Futurists and fellow Precisionists Charles Sheeler and Charles Demuth. The low vantage point combines with the forceful upward trajectory of the structures to enhance the verticality and grandeur of the painting.

    Pittsburgh is a glorious symbol of America's industrial growth and vigor that manifests Lozowick's reverence and admiration of the United States. In 1927 he expressed these sentiments in an essay for Little Review;

    "The history of America is a history of gigantic engineering feats and colossal mechanical construction...The dominant trend in America of today, beneath all the apparent chaos and confusion, is towards order and organization which find their outward sign and symbol in the rigid geometry of the American city: in the verticals of its smoke stacks, in the parallels of its car tracks, the squares of its streets, the cubes of its factories, the arc of its bridges, the cylinders of its gas tanks.

    Upon this underlying mathematical pattern as a scaffolding may be built a solid plastic structure of great intricacy and subtlety. The artist who confronts his task with original vision and accomplished craftsmanship will note with exactitude the articulation, solidity, and weight of advancing and receding masses, will define with precision the space around objects and between them; he will organize line, plane, and volume into a well knit design... The true artist will in sum objectify the dominant experience of our epoch in plastic terms that possess value for more than this epoch alone" ("The Americanization of Art," Machine-Age Exposition, New York, 1927, pp. 18-19 as quoted in Precisionism in America 1915-1941: Reordering Reality, exhibition catalogue, New York, 1994, p. 153).

    Lozowick later painted a larger version of Pittsburgh (1925-27), which is currently in the collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.


    Adele Lozowick, New Jersey, (by descent from the artist).
    Carus Gallery, New York.
    Andrew Crispo Gallery, Inc. Collection, New York.
    Anon. sale, Sotheby's, New York, 3 December 1987, lot 307.
    Acquired at the above sale by the late owner.

    Pre-Lot Text



    Heckscher Museum, The Precisionist Painters 1916-1949: Interpretations of a Mechanical Age, exhibition catalogue, Huntington, New York, 1978, pp. 31-32, (illustrated).
    Hirschl & Adler Galleries, Louis Lozowick (1892-1973) Works in the Precisionist Manner, exhibition checklist, New York, 1980, no. 4.
    "Expositions," Decoration Internationale, no. 52, May-June 1982, p. 24, (illustrated).
    Musee d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Léger et l'Esprit Moderne (1918-1931), exh. cat., Paris, 1982, p. 278, no. 69, (illustrated).


    Huntington, New York, Heckscher Museum, The Precisionist Painters 1916-1949: Interpretations of a Mechanical Age, July 7-August 20, 1978.
    New York, Hirschl & Adler Galleries, Louis Lozowick (1892-1973) Works in the Precisionist Manner, February-March, 1980, no. 4.
    New York, Andrew Crispo Gallery, American Paintings, November-December 1981, no. 27.
    Paris, Musee d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, and elsewhere, Léger et l'Esprit Moderne (1918-1931), March-June, 1982, no. 69.