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Joseph Kleitsch is considered to be one of the most important and influential of the early Southern California Impressionists. Born in Hungary in 1882, he began painting at age seven, and trained in Budapest, Munich and Paris. By the age of 17, he was an accomplished portraitist, with sitters such as Franz Josef of Austria. Furthering his studies, Kleitsch immigrated to the United States around 1901, first setting in Ohio, then in Denver in 1905. He married his first wife, Emma Multner, in October of 1904 and they moved to Mexico City in 1909. His outstanding portraits of Mexico's President Francisco Madero were highly regarded. In 1913 his wife, Emma, passed away.
After 1914 Kleitsch painted many prominent local citizens while studying at the Art Institute of Chicago. He became a teacher at the well known school, where he taught until 1919, and was awarded the Gold Medal in 1914 when he exhibited his work there. In 1914 he married an art teacher named Edna Gregatis, and their son Eugene was born in 1915.
Settling in Laguna Beach in 1920, he established the Kleitsch Academy of Art. He had become acquainted in Chicago with the important southern California Impressionist painter, Edgar Payne, who had already settled in the Laguna Beach area. Kleitsch's California works, exhibited at the Stendahl Galleries in Los Angeles, were focused on the landscape, gardens, and architecture around his home in Laguna Beach, as well as coastal scenes. He traveled to various locations in California including Carmel, Mission San Juan Capistrano and San Francisco in search of interesting and inspiring subjects.
He traveled to Europe between 1926 and 1929, including to Giverny, France, where he was inspired by the dramatic setting of Claude Monet's acclaimed works.
Kleitsch, a master colorist, is celebrated for his bold, energetic brushwork, and his unique and elegant style. He often painted outdoors, “en plein-air”, and was one of the founders of the Painters' and Sculptors' Club in 1923. Throughout the course of his successful career, he also was a member of the Chicago Society of Artists, The Palette and Chisel Club of Chicago, and the Laguna Beach Art Association. His work was awarded the Grand Prize and the Figure Prize by Laguna Beach Art Association.
His paintings can be found in the collections of the Laguna Beach Museum of Art, the Irvine Museum, and the Fleischer Museum.
The artist died on November 16th, 1931 at the age of forty-nine of a heart attack, while he was in front of the Courthouse in Santa Ana, California.
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