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Bernard von Eichman
(1899-1970)


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Bernard von Eichman was born on October 4, 1899 in San Francisco, California. He was abandoned by his father when he was 12 and was left destitute. He took to begging on the streets and left school at 13 to work as a bricklayer while his mother took on various menial jobs.

In 1915, von Eichman managed to enroll in the California School of Arts and Crafts in Berkeley and became friends with fellow artist and student Louis Siegriest. The pair of friends eventually transferred to the California School of Fine Arts to study under Frank Van Sloun. From Van Sloun, a devotee of Robert Henri and the Social Realist painters in New York, they received encouragement to paint from their own experience and not copy prevalent styles from Europe. At a young age, von Eichman had strong technical skills with a modern sensibility which was greatly influenced by his travels abroad to the East Coast and to Asia.

His trip to New York gave him the opportunity to view works by famous European modernists such as Pablo Picasso, Wassily Kandinsky, and Edouard Manet. On his return from China in 1922, he became associated with the Society of Six, a local group of Colorist painters which consisted of his friend Louis Siegriest, Maurice Logan, Selden Gile, August Gay, and William Clapp. Liveliness and sensitivity of his street scenes best express the energy at the center of von Eichmanís works in the late 1920s and 1930s. In 1926, he married Vivian Fraser Boos and lived together for 3 years. On December 1928, he left to New York to pursue his career in the arts and ended his marriage with Vivian.

During the Depression in the 1930s, von Eichman created lyrical paintings of Harlem life and other local New York scenes. He met Mildred Stazer, another commercial artist, and married her. He worked as a window display designer in New York and eventually moved back to California in 1942 for a job in the Vallejo shipyards. He later worked as a union house painter and bought and renovated houses. von Eichman spent the mid 1940s and 1950s in Mill Valley and a decade in Monterey in the late 1950s.

Although von Eichman began painting again in the 1960s, his style was different from his earlier works. He burned a large portion of his earlier works in the fireplace around 1968, which seemed appropriate to his life-long fascination with fires. He died of cancer in Santa Rosa in 1970. Bernard von Eichman was a prominent figure in the Bay Area of California during much of the 20th century.

Exhibited: San Francisco Art Association, 1927-32; Oakland Museum, 1971, 1977; San Francisco Museum of Art, 1976.

Works Held: Oakland Museum.

Source:
Hughes, Edan M. Artists In California 1786-1940. 3rd ed. Vol. 1. Sacramento: Crocker, Art Museum, 2002. N. pag. 2 vols. Print
Society of Six by Nancy Boas