Photography of Herbert Katzman


January 08, 1923, Chicago


Advanced School, Art Institute of Chicago, 1940 - 46

Herbert Katzman was born in Chicago on Jan. 8, 1923, the son of Louis, a successful dentist and of Faye, a devoted homemaker. Herbert's mother died when he was eleven resulting in Herbert and his older brother Bob being raised by by their father and a housekeeper. The father believing that discipline was a good teacher, sent Herbert and Bob to St. John's military academy for their elementary education but it wasn't long before Herbert found his way to the Art Institute of Chicago where he wanted to study sculpting. His Father vehemently objected and refused to finance his studies, but that wasn't enough to discourage the young artist. He put himself through school working as a »student janitor« and a few other odd jobs. At 17 he entered the Advanced School of the Art Institute, his interest having turned to painting. His study there was briefly interrupted by a short stint in the navy (1942-44). He graduated from the Art Institute of Chicago in 1946 and was honored with a Travelling Fellowship. He then moved to Paris where he became a part of a lively scene of young american artists and met his future wife, Duny Baker. A son, Nick, was born in 1950, not long before the couple returned to the United States. During his four year European stay he travelled extensively in Italy, the south of France, England, Scotland, Czechoslovakia, Holland and Belgium. Scenes from these countries became subjects for numerous landscape paintings. While in Ostend, Belgium he arranged for a meeting with the Belgian artist Ensor, who sat for a drawing that Katzman made of him. Many years later, an aged Ensor sitting before his paintings became the subject of one of Katzman's most deeply-felt works.

The early 1950's were not an easy time for a young painter to find work in New York City. Katzman took any job »no matter how menial« that would enable him to support his family, which by 1953 had grown to four a second son, Steve, having been born that year. As difficult as earning a decent living was at that time, Katzman was gaining a distinctive reputation as a painter. He became a member of the prestigious Downtown Gallery, and in 1952 was was selected by the Museum of Modern Art to paticipate in it's »Fifteen American's« show. This was followed by many group and one-man shows. In 1955 he received a Fulbright Grant which allowed him to move to Florence, Italy for a year where he painted many landscapes of his new surroundings and made numerous small sculptures modelled in wax and cast in bronze. It was in Florence that his daughter, Annie, was born. Upon his return to New York in 1956, he found work as a teacher of painting at New York's School of Visual Arts. For the next decades he painted landscapes and portraits, sculpted and created large drawings in chalk. His reputation grew among conceptual and figurative artists even though the trend against representational art became pervasive in galleries and the media in general. Throughout his life, however, his work has been bought by museums and major art collectors. Although disappointed by the reality of »contemporary« taste, Katzman kept working in his own painterly way. Some of his most profound and purest works — miniature paintings and drawings — were done in the last fifteen years of his life. In 2001 Katzman was honored with the prestious Pollack/Krassner Award. Herbert Katzman died in his studio on October 15, 2004.