Born in Vienna on November 5, 1894, and died in New York on October 2, 1977, the life of Josef Floch takes place against the background of drastic political, cultural and social changes. As one of the internationally most successful visual artists of Austrian origin, Floch sees his work as a counterpoint to abstraction and expressionism until the end.
Josef Floch was born in Vienna on 5 November 1894 and died on 26 October 1977 in New York. He studied at the Vienna Academy with Rudolf Bacher and Franz Rumpler (1913–1918), a time still tinged with the golden age of fin-de-siècle Viennese art. In 1919 he became a member of the Hagenbund and 1922 saw the start of his many and lifelong travels to Palestine, Egypt and different European countries. When he moved to Paris in 1925, he became part of the international avant-garde and his social set included both Austrian and international artists. His solo exhibition at Berthe Weill’s renowned gallery in 1929 marked the height of his artistic and financial success. In 1934 the Hagenbund made him the focus of their collective exhibition and that same year he married Hermine Fränkl from Vienna. In 1941 he managed to escape Europe for New York where he soon found his feet with the support of a network of European emigrants like the art historians Hans Tietze and Erica Tietze-Conrat. His work was exhibited regularly at American museums and galleries and in 1951 he became an American citizen. The Österreichische Galerie in Vienna devoted a solo exhibition to him in 1972. Joseph Floch was given several international awards including the golden cross of France. His works can be found in museums throughout the world, for example in New Zealand, the USA, Brazil, Israel and many European cities. Form was at the heart of Floch’s art and signified for him a ‘spiritual experience’. Neoclassical painting, the art of Gauguin, Cézanne and especially the pictures by Hans von Marées influenced Floch’s move towards clear geometry and bright use of light. Landscapes, portraits and figural pictures are his key subjects. In Paris he painted an important series of dog motifs and from 1932 to 1936 the so-called terrace pictures. In a motionless, melancholic atmosphere these pictures have echoes of Magic Realism and moments of Surrealism. In the USA, his palette became darker and his colours richer and light became more and more evocative of atmosphere. He tackled motifs from the big city, skyscrapers and street canyons in a detached and cool way that bears a resemblance with paintings by the American artist Edward Hopper. Until the very end, he regarded his work as an opposite extreme to abstract art and Expressionism.