John William Orth

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"Field of Lupines"
Oil on canvas
32 x 24 inches

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John W. Orth was born in Bavaria on July 26, 1889. He sold his first painting, a water color, when he was 13. At age 15 studied under a scholarship at Nuremberg's College of Fine Arts. Three years later, again on a scholarship, he attended Munich's Academy of Fine Arts. From there he went on to study at the Art Academy Julien in Paris and then traveled throughout Europe, studying work by the Old Masters.

For Nuremberg's Albrecht Durer Museum, he was commissioned to reproduce a number of Durer's paintings, and representatives of The Rhineland's Barmen Museum purchased his painting of The Prodigal Son. In 1922, Louis Mayer, an accomplished artist himself, purchased Orth's The Prophet from among thousands of paintings displayed at Munich's Glas Palast. He declared Orth's painting "the work of a genius," and for three years The Prophet was hung, by invitation, in the Brooklyn Art Museum.

Already an established artist at age 34, Orth left his troubled country in 1923 to escape certain persecution for his outspoken liberal views on race, religion and politics. He came to America to start anew. He was active in Houston and Kansas City before settling in Los Angeles in 1938. Here, he felt certain, his restless spirit could continue to grow, his career to flourish in an environment of freedom, which encouraged individual expression and unrestrained thought.

In the United States, John Orth did portraits of notables including Winston Churchill, Albert Einstein, John F. Kennedy, Richard M. Nixon, Marian Anderson, Charles Laughton and Zazu Pitts. In Houston, Texas the financier Jesse H. Jones, now deceased, commissioned Orth to do portraits of all the U.S. presidents. The paintings now hang in the University of Houston's Anderson Memorial Library, and the collection of the Texas Hall of Remembrance in Austin his portrait of President Eisenhower. His double portrait of John F. Kennedy with his brother Robert earned one of Orth's most cherished rewards, a letter from the late Robert F. Kennedy warmly commending him for his exceptional artistry.

The paintings of William Orth range from impeccable miniatures to sweeping murals and encompass a wide range of subjects: florals, landscapes, seascapes, nudes, portraits, religious scenes and his latest works, "meditations of the soul." Orth has earned worked in other media including sculpture, mosaic creations, architectural designs and models.

On May 26, 1976, Orth died in Santa Ana, California.

Kansas City Society of Artists

Works Held:
Albrecht Durer Museum in Nuremberg, Germany; Anderson Memorial Library in Houston, TX; Brooklyn Art Museum, Munich Glas Palast Museum; Rhineland's Barmen Museum in Barmen, Germany; Texas Hall of Remembrance in Austin, TX.

Hughes, Edan M. Artists In California 1786-1940. 3rd ed. Vol. 1. Sacramento: Crocker, Art Museum, 2002. N. pag. 2 vols. Print.