Alfred Abraham Sessler (1909 - 1963)

Birth date: 1/14/1909 Death date: 9/16/1963  
Birth location: Milwaukee, Wisconsin Death location: Madison, Wisconsin  
Media: Drawing , Graphic Art , Painting Web site:
Fair (file rating) - MWA artist file may include basic data, and additional newspaper articles, book references, exhibition information, and images that can be researched on site at MWA.

Biographical Brief

Represented in the permanent collection of the Miller Art Museum, Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin.


Alfred Abraham Sessler
Born 1909 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Died 1963 in Madison, Wisconsin
Drawing cartoons during the 1920s sparked Alfred Sessler’s interest in art. By the time he entered the Layton School of Art in the 1930s, the Depression had begun to have an impact on his work; he often depicted people struggling for survival.  “I have always been a fighter for the underdog,” he said.  Sessler worked for the Treasury Relief Art Project from 1935-37 and then for the Federal Art Project from 1937-42.  After Sessler continued his studies at the Milwaukee State Teachers College, where he received a B.S. in 1944, and at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he received a M.S. in 1945.  Sessler then joined the art faculty at UW-Madison, where he established UW’s groundbreaking graphics program.  

Sessler became a noted painter, lithographer, educator, and lecturer  receiving national recognition.  He was a prolific printmaker under the W.P.A., producing many lithographs and etchings in a Social Realist style and he also painted two Post Office murals, one in Lowell, MI. the other in Morris, MN.  In the late 1950s, Sessler developed the “reduction block” method for making multi-color woodcuts using only one block.  His innovative graphics program and his reputation as a printmaker gave UW its continuing position of leadership in the field of printmaking, making it   the largest and most progressive in the country.  Sessler drew upon the sad and slightly comic in human nature and developed a style of biomorphic abstraction.  His last prints were horrific interpretations of tree forms that featured mask-like faces hidden in attenuated branches.  Sessler is represented in many public collections including those of the Milwaukee Art Museum, Museum of Wisconsin Art, Elvehjem Museum of Art, UW-Madison, Butler Institute of American Art and the Library of Congress.

Selected One-Person Exhibitions

IMilwaukee State Teachers College
Layton Art Gallery, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
University of Wisconsin, Madison 
Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C. 
Milwaukee Art Center, Wisconsin 
1973  Elvehjem Art Museum, Madison Wisconsin (also 1988)
Wisconsin Academy Gallery in Collaboration with Madison Elvehjem Art Museum,
The Prints of Alfred Sessler, 1935 to 1963

Selected Group Exhibitions

Wisconsin Salon Of Art, UW-Madison (purchase award)
1936  New York, New York; Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois National Exhibition of American Artists (also 1938) 
1937 Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., Fifteenth Biennial Exhibition of Contemporary American Art 
Milwaukee Art Institute - 24th Annual Exhibition of the Wisconsin Painters and Sculptors 
1939  World’s Fair, New York, New York
Layton Gallery of Art, Milwaukee, Wisconsin - Paintings by the Square Inch 
Institute of Modern Art, Boston, Massachusetts 
1947 Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota, First Biennial Exhibition of Paintings and Prints
1951        Library of Congress, Washington D.C., Ninth National Exhibition of Prints
1951        Library of Congress, Washington D.C., Ninth National Exhibition of Prints
1956 Cincinnati, Ohio: Fourth International Biennial of Contemporary Color Lithography
1961  Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia,
156th Annual Exhibition of Water Colors, Prints, and Drawings
1996 Bergstrom-Mahler Museum, Neenah, Wisconsin, Collecting the Art of Wisconsin: The Early Years
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