Dublin Core




Lobdell, Frank



22 1/4 x 30 inches



Still Image Item Type Metadata


A major Bay Area painter and teacher whose bold and brooding Abstract Expressionist pictures of the 1950s and 1960s epitomized and influenced the art of the region, died Saturday in Palo Alto of cardiopulmonary arrest. He was 92 and had been in declining health. Born in Kansas City and reared in Minnesota, where he studied at the St. Paul School of Fine Arts before serving in the U.S. Army during World War II, Mr. Lobdell developed his distinctive and deeply personal style at the California School of Fine Arts - now the San Francisco Art Institute - a hothouse of energy and innovation in the exuberant and angst-ridden postwar period. Studying on the GI Bill, Mr. Lobdell, who taught at the Russian Hill school in the late '50s and early '60s before joining the Stanford faculty in 1966, was exposed to the potent new art and ethics of prominent faculty members Clyfford Still, Mark Rothko and David Park. He became tight with Richard Diebenkorn, a fellow student with whom he, Park and another important Bay Area painter and teacher, Elmer Bischoff, held weekly figure-drawing sessions from 1959 to '65. Mr. Lobdell would later participate in weekly figure-drawing sessions at Stanford with Nathan Oliveira and other artists on the faculty. Some of the big shapes in his drawings, made with light and shadow, morphed into images that cropped up in his paintings and prints. "In person shy and quietly intense, in his paintings Lobdell forged a personal style that was somber, dramatic, agonized and grave," Thomas Albright wrote in his definitive history, "Art in the San Francisco Bay Area, 1945-1980." Transformed by war Albright described the painter's signature early-1950s vocabulary of "ambiguous, enigmatic, vaguely archaeological images, some of them suggesting roots in Northwestern Indian art: boomerangs, rhombuses, sun discs surrounded spinning rays, wing shapes, jawbones, ragged claws, and obscure pictographs." By the late 1950s, Mr. Lobdell's paintings had become more taciturn, with "volcanic blacks in thick impastos that enveloped writhing, upward-groping biomorphic shapes," wrote the critic, who quotes an Art News review of the work by UC Berkeley art historian Herschel Chipp describing the paintings as "ominous voids which may be either deep black or misty white, charged with the chilling mystery of unfathomable space." Mr. Lobdell, whose work was exhibited internationally and collected by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the National Gallery of Art in Washington and many other museums, was profoundly affected by the atrocities he witnessed as a combat officer in Germany. His battalion found the charred bodies of almost 1,000 concentration camp prisoners who had been burned alive in the infamous war crime known as the Gardelegen Massacre. "After serving in World War II, Frank Lobdell confronted the question of whether art retained any relevance in a world forever transformed by the Holocaust, Hiroshima and the horrors of war," said Timothy Burgard, curator of American art at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, in a statement written in response to Mr. Lobdell's death. "In the ensuing decades, he worked to resurrect the human figure - which had been physically and psychically traumatized during the war - utilizing a vocabulary of archetypal themes and abstract symbols," said Burgard, who organized the big 2003 Lobdell retrospective at the Legion of Honor. "Tempering an existential sensibility with a transcendent humanism, he forged a unique pictorial language for our modern age."





Media Details

Lithograph, 41/75

Signature Position

Signed and numbered 41/75, lower right in black field (initials)


Mr. and Mrs. Herbert Lust



Lobdell, Frank, “Untitled,” Westport Public Schools Digital Collections, accessed December 6, 2023,

Item Relations

This Item dcterms:relation Item: Staples High School