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John Koch (American, 1909-1978)
Birth Place: Toledo (Lucas county, Ohio, United States)
John Koch was an American realist painter that boldly stuck to realism during the time of abstraction. Because of his dedication to a more traditional style, Koch was not appreciated during his own time and worked mostly on commissioned portraits. However, his art is now recognized as an important part of America's history.
Born in 1909 in Toledo, Ohio, Koch grew up in Michigan receiving little training as an artist. He attended an artist colony for two summers in Massachusetts before moving to Paris after graduation to practice his skill. His strongest influence was Charles Hawthorne, yet he never studied under anyone.
After Paris, he moved to New York City, where the bulk of his work was created. Koch used his upscale apartment as the scene for his works, planning each piece with meticulous detail. While Koch was a realist, he did not paint the reality set before him; he created and manipulated the reality into his idealized version. Those who knew him claimed that Koch controlled every aspect of his life in the way that he controlled his paintings, aiming to create a well-ordered life draped in privilege and high society. In fact, though the focus of his paintings appears to be people, often it is the detail that overwhelms viewers. Each object is detailed to the perfection of a still life in order to capture the environment equally as well as the subjects.
In addition to people and their environments, Koch also creates relationships. Though many of these relationships focus on his wife, Dora Zaslovsky, or himself, the interactions illustrate a time and place for Koch's social class. Some of his most famous works depicting relationships and interactions are "The Cocktail Party" (1954), which portrays a party in Koch's apartment, and "Music" (1956), which focuses on his wife and a music student.
However, it is his nudes that often receive the most attention as they are suggestive and sensuous yet do not celebrate nudity as much as create a yearning. "The Sculptor" (1964) may be Koch's most discussed work raising questions of desire and homosexuality.
Until his death in 1978, Koch created a prolific portfolio, and while Koch was under-appreciated due to his refusal to venture into the world of abstract art, his work captures the essence of his life and his society that is appreciated and studied today.
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