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Paul Wiesenfeld

Paul Wiesenfeld

1942-1990
Born: Los Angeles, California

Paul Wiesenfeld was an American realist painter, working primarily in oil to create comprehensive interior scenes and portraits. He was born April 2, 1942 in Los Angeles, California. He began studying art at the age of 11, taking evening and Saturday classes at the Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles.[1] Wiesenfeld continued to study art at the University of California at Los Angeles (1960-1964) and the Yale University Summer School of Art in 1962.

In 1964, he moved to Munich, Germany, studying at the Kunst Akademie on a Fulbright Grant for two years. Wiesenfeld had a deep appreciation for Munich and its extensive art collection, particularly the works of Old Masters.[2] He met his wife in Germany, and the couple would have two children. He returned to the United States in 1966, receiving a Master of Fine Arts from Indiana University.[3] Upon completing his studies in 1968 he returned to Europe once again, living and working in Abensberg, Bavaria.[4] The family would travel frequently between Germany and the United States; Wiesenfeld’s wife was German, so the family would spend ample time at their house in Landshut, a small town right outside of Munich.[5]

Wiesenfeld’s artistic style was influenced by work of the European masters he admired, particularly Dutch master Johannes Vermeer. His experimentation with light and its effect on forms within the interior, the use of muted, subtle color in his earlier works, and incorporation of off center, sometimes low vantage points are all reminiscent of the Dutch artist’s style, but never a direct replication of his work.[6] Wiesenfeld’s style is its own; by experimenting with various forms within the same space, discovering the balance between a meticulous narrative and abstraction, Wiesenfeld created his own personal definition of still life, one that juxtaposes traditional practices with contemporary themes and exploration.[7]

Wiesenfeld was incredibly familiar and intentional with his subject matter. His interiors were all crafted from a designated room in his family home, a room that he very judiciously crafted, and kept off limits to the rest of the family.[8] His works are comprised of many of the same pieces: vaguely Victorian style furniture found in the thrift store, a bright, geometrically designed rug, a round table with various objects placed on it, an old-style lamp and a window draped to filter the light into the room.[9] Wiesenfeld would experiment with these forms, adding and subtracting elements to see how they can relate to one another and bring a sense of cohesiveness and flow to an otherwise static setting. With so much attention to detail, Wiesenfeld would carefully nurture each piece from start to finish.[10] Keeping himself on a controlled schedule, his paintings would normally take two to four months to complete.[11]

The attentiveness is evident in his work and each subtle detail brings together presence and absence, breathing life into an empty interior:

“The atmosphere he captures is tranquil, often cozy and snug in the earlier ones, dignified in later ones. The aura echoes the familiar, yet there is also the element of the unspoken. One perceives, as one critic stated, ‘a hint of humanity’; there is a sense of presence, as if someone had just left the room. The missing presence is suggested by a crushed sofa cushion, a lighted lamp, a half-open cigarette pack, or a mug on the floor within arm’s reach of the sofa. The clues tantalize. Who has been here? The answer is simple: Wiesenfeld himself!”[12]

Wiesenfeld would oftentimes immerse himself into his space, allowing his work to transcend from that of an observer to create an all-around view. In some of his works, namely Seated Nude (1971) and Reclining Nude (1971), he brings figure into still life, another Vermeer influence. The figure he includes is that of his wife.[13]

Wiesenfeld worked as an Assistant Professor of Fine Arts at Buffalo State from 1969-1973. In 1973 the family moved to Landshut permanently for Wiesenfeld to focus on painting full time.

Wiesenfeld exhibited his works throughout the United States and in Germany throughout his career. He has been included in group exhibitions at the Haus der Kunst in Munich (1966), the John Herron Museum in Indianapolis (1967), the Allan Frumkin Gallery in New York (1979) and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia (1981).[14] His work was also included in the “22 Realists” exhibition at the Whitney Museum of Art (1970) and the “Realism Now” exhibition at the New York Cultural Center (1972).[15] He has had single exhibitions at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery (1973), the Robert Schoelkopf Gallery in New York (1973, 1976, 1981) and the Städtische Galerie in München (1981).[16]

On October 20, 1990 Wiesenfeld died in Landshut after a battle with cancer. He was 48.



[1] Doreen Mangan, “Paul Wiesenfeld Redefines the Still Life”, American Artist, August 1974, Archived publication.

[2] Doreen Mangan, “Paul Wiesenfeld Redefines the Still Life”, American Artist, August 1974, Archived publication.

[3] “Paul Wiesenfeld Bio”, Artist website, http://paulwiesenfeld.com/bio.html.

[4] “Paul Wiesenfeld Bio”, Artist website, http://paulwiesenfeld.com/bio.html.

[6] Doreen Mangan, “Paul Wiesenfeld Redefines the Still Life”, American Artist, August 1974, Archived publication.

[7] Doreen Mangan, “Paul Wiesenfeld Redefines the Still Life”, American Artist, August 1974, Archived publication.

[10] Doreen Mangan, “Paul Wiesenfeld Redefines the Still Life”, American Artist, August 1974, Archived publication.

[11] Doreen Mangan, “Paul Wiesenfeld Redefines the Still Life”, American Artist, August 1974, Archived publication.

[12] Doreen Mangan, “Paul Wiesenfeld Redefines the Still Life”, American Artist, August 1974, Archived publication.

[13] Doreen Mangan, “Paul Wiesenfeld Redefines the Still Life”, American Artist, August 1974, Archived publication.

[14] “Paul Wiesenfeld Bio”, Artist website, http://paulwiesenfeld.com/bio.html.

[15] “Paul Wiesenfeld”, Burchfield Penney Art Center Artist File, Archived Albright-Knox exhibition catalog, 1973.

[16] “Paul Wiesenfeld Bio”, Artist website, http://paulwiesenfeld.com/bio.html.