George Biddle

American, 1885 - 1973
One of the masters of American Scene painting, George Biddle was born into a prominent Philadelphia family. He studied at Groton, then graduated from Harvard law school in 1911, before determining to become an artist. He traveled and studied abroad in Munich, and then in Paris at the Academie Julian. Returning to Philadelphia, Biddle attended the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts from 1912 to 1914. During the 1920s, he traveled to Paris, Tahiti, and Mexico, where he joined Diego Rivera on a sketching trip in 1928. It was during this experience that Biddle was inspired to create a similar, state-sponsored, social and indigenous art in America-which became his most important legacy as an artist. RSBiography courtesy of The Charleston Renaissance Gallery,
George Biddle
Born Pennsylvania, 1885
Died New York, 1973

Born to a prominent family in Philadelphia, George Biddle put his interest in art aside to accommodate his family's wishes and study law. He graduated from Harvard University in 1908 and Harvard Law in 1911, becoming a member of the Philadelphia bar. However, by the end of that same year Biddle abandoned law and began studying art at the Academie Julien in Paris.

Biddle continued his studies at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts during 1912 and 1913. He returned to Europe in 1914, studying in Munich and then in Madrid where he studied printmaking. Biddle also spent the summers of 1915 and 1916 painting Impressionist works France before he enlisted in the army in 1917.

Following World War I, Biddle experimented in sculpture and graphics in Tahiti for two years and then in France between 1924 and 1926. In 1927, Biddle returned to the United States settling in Croton-on-Hudson, New York. The following year, he traveled through Mexico on a sketching trip with Mexican muralist, Diego Rivera.

During the Great Depression, Biddle actively sought government funding for the arts. His correspondence with President Franklin D. Roosevelt (a former classmate at Groton Preparatory School and at Harvard) resulted in the establishment of the Federal Arts Project of the Works Progress Administration (WPA). The Depression fueled Biddle's desire to create socially conscious art. He established himself as a Social Realist through powerful murals depicting poverty. The Tenement, which he created in 1935 for the Department of Justice Building in Washington, D.C., was his first federally commissioned mural. The project led to controversy as people deemed his depiction of poverty to be "inartistic".

In addition to his artwork, Biddle authored several art books including An Artist at War and An American Artist's Story and he contributed regularly to national art magazines. In 1937, Biddle wrote the introduction for Boardman Robinson's Ninety-Three Drawings which was published by the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center (formerly the Broadmoor Academy) where he taught in 1936 and 1937.

In addition to teaching in Colorado, Biddle later taught at the Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles; the American Academy in Rome; and in Saugatuck, Michigan. He served as chairman of the U.S. War Artists Committee during World War II and, in 1950, President Truman appointed him to the Fine Arts Commission for which he served a fourteen-year term.

Exhibited: Art Institute of Chicago, 1932-33, 1936, 1942; American Institute of Graphic Art, New York, 1927; Carnegie Institute, 1935, 1950 (solo); Corcoran Gallery of Art, 1916-1919, 1930-47, 1958 (solo); Detroit Institute of Arts, 1928; John Herron Art Institute, 1943; National Academy of Design, 1916-48; New York City Art Center, 1926; Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, 1916-1966; Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1947; Brooklyn Museum, 1948; New York Public Library, 1940 (solo); California Palace of the Legion of Honor, 1953 (solo); University of Southern California, 1955 (solo); Rhode Island School of Design, 1961 (solo); University of Delaware, 1963; Harco Gallery, 1996 (retrospective); Museum of Modern Art; Whitney Museum of American Art; Boston Museum of Fine Arts; Los Angeles Museum of Art; Library of Congress; San Diego Fine Art Society; San Francisco Museum of Art; Santa Barbara Museum of Art, 1944; Society of Independent Artists, 1917, 1927, 1928, 1936; World's Fair, New York, 1939; Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris, 1918.

Works Held: Art Institute of Chicago; Boston Museum of Fine Arts; Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, Ohio; California Palace of the Legion of Honor; Walter E. Chrysler Collection; Corcoran Gallery of Art; Dallas Museum of Fine Art; Denver Art Museum; Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, Massachusetts; John Herron Art Institute; Library of Congress; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Museum of Modern Art, New York City; Newark Public Library; Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art; New York Public Library; Philadelphia Museum of Art; San Diego Fine Art Society; San Francisco Museum of Art; United States Post Office, Brunswick, New Jersey; Whitney Museum of American Art; Kaiser Friedrich's Museum, Berlin; Galeria D'ArteModerna, Venice.

Further Reading: A Show of Color: 100 Years of Painting in the Pike's Peak Region, Robert L. Shalkop, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, Colorado Springs, Colorado, 1971.; The Illustrated Biographical Encyclopedia of Artists of the American West, Peggy and Harold Samuels, Doubleday & Company, Inc., Garden City, New York, 1976.; John F. Carlson and Artists of the Broadmoor Academy, David Cook Fine Art, Denver, Colorado, 1999.; Pikes Peak Vision: The Broadmoor Art Academy, 1919-1945, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, Colorado Springs, Colorado, 1989.; Who Was Who in American Art 1564-1975: 400 Years of Artists in America, Vol. 1. Peter Hastings Falk, Georgia Kuchen and Veronica Roessler, eds.,Sound View Press, Madison, Connecticut, 1999. 3 Vols.

Biography courtesy of David Cook Galleries,
Philadelphian George Biddle was educated at Groton, Harvard, the Academie Julian in Paris, and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. He served in the Army during World War I in France. His work is in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of New York and the Pennsylvania Academy.

Biography courtesy of Schwarz Gallery,
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