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George Josimovich

Born: 1894, Mitrovica, Srem, Yugoslavia
Died: 1987, Newark, New Jersey, United States of America
Gender: Male


George Josimovich was one of a group of artists in Chicago who experimented with modernist approaches to art in the first half of the twentieth century. Josimovich shared with many of them the experience of immigration: born in Mitrovica, Srem, in Yugoslavia (now Serbia), he moved with his family to Fort Laramie, Wyoming, and arrived in Chicago at the age of twenty to enroll in the Art Institute of Chicago’s prestigious school. There his teachers included painter George Bellows, whose advocacy of individual truth in expression influenced a generation of progressive artists in Chicago. Josimovich also studied with the Romanian-born designer and craftsman Herman Sachs (1889–1940) at the famous settlement house known as Hull House. In 1920, he accompanied Sachs to the Dayton Art Museum in Ohio to establish a craft program based on the principals of expressionism, the manifestation of subjective emotion through the forceful manipulation of materials.

Returning to Chicago in 1922, Josimovich joined the famed Jackson Park art colony in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood and became active in the movement to find greater exposure and support for modernist artists in the city. His figural compositions in drawing, printmaking, and oil and watercolor painting drew immediate critical notice, both negative and positive. Inspired by the utilitarian aesthetic of machinery and modern architecture, he abstracted familiar forms and emphasized their underlying geometry. Josimovich’s approach shared many of the characteristics of the contemporary European art movement known as purism. He further refined his reductive presentation of objective reality during a year in Paris, in 1926 and 1927, during which his work was the subject of a solo exhibition at the Galerie d’Art Contemporain.

On his return to Chicago, Josimovich resumed his active participation in the city’s contemporary artists’ scene, leading the progressive No-Jury Society of Artists and exhibiting with a group of like-minded artists known as The Ten (not to be confused with the earlier group Ten American Painters, founded in 1897 and also known as The Ten). He also participated in the exhibitions of the more staid Chicago Society of Artists, eventually serving as its vice-president and then president. In the 1930s, Josimovich’s art underwent a transformation as he fully embraced an expressionist approach in the nudes, portraits, landscapes, and still lifes he created in oil, woodcut printmaking, and watercolor. Josimovich’s art always commanded critical attention, if not support. Like most of Chicago’s cutting-edge artists, however, he supported himself and his family not by his art but by work as a draftsman, designer of lighting fixtures, and art teacher. During the Great Depression, he also worked briefly for the federal government’s Public Works Administration artists’ relief project. As is the case with many other Chicago artists of his generation, Josimovich’s career and his art await further study and appreciation.
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