Conrad Buff

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"Mountain and Lake"
Oil on Masonite
23 1/2 x 31 1/2 inches

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Painter, lithographer, illustrator, muralist. A self-taught artist, he used a pointillist technique to create stark mountain and desert landscapes. Born in Speicher, Switzerland on January 15, 1886. Buff was trained as a lace designer at the School of Arts and Crafts in St. Gallen, Switzerland and at age 18 studied briefly in Munich. He immigrated to the U.S. in 1905 and, since he spoke no English, moved to Wisconsin where there was a large Swiss population. There he worked various jobs before moving to Los Angeles in 1906, where he took classes under William A. Paxton; in this period he created hundreds of small, non-objective oil paintings that he called "experiments" before the idea of abstraction had existed. In 1917, he was hired under artist Edgar Payne to work on a mural series, which spurred a lifelong friendship and many opportunities with other California artists.

In 1922 he married Mary Marsh who was an artist and assistant curator at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; she helped him exhibit his first one-person show in 1921 as well as join the California Art Club. In the Depression era, Buff turned to lithography and in 1931, he had an exhibition of his prints at the Los Angeles Museum. He regularly made sketching trips into the deserts of Utah, New Mexico, and Arizona, and in his leisure began painting desert landscapes. In 1933, he developed a lifelong friendship with Maynard Dixon who often accompanied him on these sketching trips. Buff was assigned mural work during the Public Works of Art Project of the Depression and managed to create color silkscreens and oil paintings after the 1930s and through WWII. His work continued to evolve and experiment with brilliant colors through the end of his life, culminating in a series of landscapes of Southern Utah. Buff was a resident of Pasadena and Laguna Hills where he died on March 11, 1975. His work won many awards in Southern California exhibitions.

Member: California Art Club.

Exhibited: California Art Club, 1920-30; Painters and Sculptors of Los Angeles, 1920-37; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1923, 1929, 1937, 1940; San Diego Museum of Art, 1925; Modern Art Worksers, 1926; Stendahl Galleries, Los Angeles, 1927, 1934; Carmelita House, Los Angeles, 1927; Oakland Art Gallery, 1932; Golden Gate International Exposition, San Francisco, 1939, Commonwealth Club, Los Angeles, 1950.

Works held: British Museum, London, England; California Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco; Detroit Institute of Art, MI; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Los Angeles Public Library; Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA; National Museum of American Art, Washington, DC; Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach; San Diego Museum of Art.

Murals: Guarantee Building and Loan Association of Los Angeles; Mormon Church, Huntington Park; Phoenix National Bank, AZ; Southern California Edison Building, Los Angeles; William Penn Hotel, Whittier.

Buff, Libby and George Stern. The Art and Life of Conrad Buff. 2000. Hughes, Edan M. Artists In California 1786-1940. 3rd ed. Vol. 1. Sacramento: Crocker, Art Museum, 2002. N. pag. 2 vols. Print.