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Joseph Kleitsch was an American artist who holds a high place in the early California school of Impressionism. He was born on June 6, 1882 in Banat, Hungary and he trained and studied at schools in Budapest, Munich and Paris. Between 1907 and 1909 he was known to have visited and painted in Mexico City, (Hutchinson) Kansas and Chicago. Mexican President Francisco Madero and his wife honored Kleitsch in 1912 for his commissioned portraits of the royal family.

In 1920 Kleitsch arrived in southern California, deciding to reside in the early artist community of Laguna Beach and Los Angeles. As an avid plein-air painter, he was inspired by the streets and shores of Laguna Beach, and took frequent painting trips to nearby Mission San Juan Capistrano, to northern California’s San Francisco and Carmel. Later in his career, in 1925, he traveled to Hungary, Spain and France, and he returned to Laguna Beach in November of 1927.

He has been characterized as a “master of gorgeous color.” Arthur Millier, art critic for the Los Angeles Times, in 1933, said of Kleitsch that he was “a born colorist; he seemed to play on canvas with the abandon of a gypsy violinist.” Earlier Anthony Anderson, also an art critic for the Los Angeles Times in 1922, was quoted as saying: “Kleitsch has discovered more varieties of loveliness in Laguna Beach than any other artist...he explored little intimate places, he painted quaint old streets with towering eucalyptus, the gardens rioting with bloom, and he introduced feminine figures straying through these charming purlieus....”

During his career, he held memberships at the Chicago Society of Artists, the Laguna Beach Art Association, the Painters’ and Sculptors’ Club and the Palette and Chisel Club of Chicago. He exhibited and then won the Gold Medal at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1914, the Silver Medal at the Painters’ and Sculptors’ Club and the Grand Prize and Figure Prize at the Laguna Beach Art Association. Works by Joseph Kleitsch can be found at the Laguna Art Museum; Colorado Historical Society, Denver, Colorado; and Fleischer Museum, Arizona.

Joseph Kleitsch died at the early age of forty-nine on November 16, 1931 in Santa Ana, California. (Biography used with permission from the Joseph Kleitsch Gallery)

[Christie’s, Los Angeles, CA 2003]
Private Collection 2003

Joseph Kleitsch A Kaleidoscope of Color (Irvine, CA: The Irvine Museum, 2007), p 66, illustrated

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