Lester O. Schwartz (1912 - 2006)

Birth date: 6/29/1912 Death date: 5/16/2006  
Birth location: Manitowoc, Wisconsin Death location: Ripon, Wisconsin  
Media: Graphic Art , Painter / Watercolor , Sculpture Web site:
Comprehensive (file rating) - Major Wisconsin artist file that includes comprehensive documentation on artist's life that can be researched on site at MWA.

Biographical Brief

1935, School of Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Work Experience:
1944-1977, Artist-in-Residence, Ripon College, Ripon, Wisconsin
1944, Guest Instructor, Layton Art School, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
1977, Retires from Ripon College, Ripon, Wisconsin
1980, Begins working on large-scale steel sculptures
1990, Opens Green Lake residence as art and sculpture gallery featuring his work
1937-1939, Edward Ryerson Traveling Fellowship, Traveled throughout South Pacific,
                    Asia, and Europe, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL
1946, Prize for "Reluctant Lion", Associated American Artists, "Chicago Veterns of
          WW2, Chicago, IL
1947, 34th Annual Exhibition, Milwaukee Art Institute, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
1948, Prize for "Cloistered island", Exhibition of American Painting, University
          of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, IL
1948, Prize for "Projection and Recession", Exhibition Momentum, Roosevelt
          College, Chicago, IL
1950, Prize for "Fox Farm Fantasy", Gimbel Art Competition, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
1951, Prize for "Airscapes and Landscapes, Gimbel Art Competition, Milwaukee, WI
1951, Milwaukee Journal Purchase Prize, "Amateur Circus", Wisconsin Painters
          and Sculptors, Milwaukee Art Institute, Milwaukee, WI
1953, Gimbel Mural Competition, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
1961, Prize for "Romantic Constructivist", Wisconsin Watercolor Exhibition,
          Milwaukee Art Center, Milwaukee, Wisconsin


Lester O. Schwartz

Born 1912

2003 resides in Ripon, WI

Lester Schwartz’s parents immigrated to America around the 1900.  Growing up in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, Lester would go to his father’s scrap-yard and pick out pieces to make sculptural designs. While in his late teens he enjoyed cartooning and received a scholarship to the Art Institute of Chicago to study commercial art; even though his true passion was for the fine arts.  He attended classes for about two years until he became disillusioned with the teaching, he returned home to work for his father. Before long he realized he really wanted to be an artist, possibly the “Gauguin of Manitowoc” so he returned to the Art Institute of Chicago.  This time he studied under Boris Anisfelt, a Russian-Jewish instructor, and applied himself so well that by his fourth year he qualified for a fellowship to travel around the world for two and a half years including study in Paris where he met Pablo Picasso.

At twenty-two, Schwartz was very influenced by Paul Gauguin and decided to travel to Bali where he painted for the next ten months; a country of contrasts it was considered to be the “paradise of the world” but in reality was very poverty stricken.  Schwartz later worked for the WPA in both Illinois and Wisconsin, and served in the U.S. Army, at Fort Leonardwood, where the Chaplain assigned him to do paintings for the chapel.  One notable painting he did was the “Resurrection of Christ” being Jewish Schwartz had no knowledge of the New Testament, and depicted the risen Christ above a modern tomb with two American soldiers guarding the tomb holding an American flag.

After teaching at the Art Institute and studying in the Far East on a fellowship, Schwartz became Artist – in - Residence at Ripon College in 1944. The school allowed him to renovate a fraternity house; this gave him the opportunity to paint without any restrictions except teaching, for four hours a day. 

He married one of his students, Gloria, a woman who loved the outdoors, animals and building things.  She built his studio and their fireplaces, brick by brick, while Lester held the level to try to make himself useful.  Gloria died at home in 1987 and after her death he named their farm “Gloria Hills”.  He painted to release his grief and eventually developed a fantasy world sculpture garden on his farm that is open for public tours.  Many of his sculptures follow a circus theme but one of his favorites is “The Miller Tower” constructed with 3000 empty beer bottles from the Miller Brewery.  Before his wife died he signed all his work Lester O. Schwartz and afterwards he shortened his signature to Les Schwartz. He continues to work and live at “Gloria Hills” to this day. 


1.         Bird Haven- memorial to Rose Spirgler mixed media, metal at 615 Oshkosh Street, Ripon, WI

2.         Untitled- seven metal sculptures at 615 Oshkosh Street, Ripon, WI

Selected Group Exhibitions

1945      49th Annual Exhibition by Artists of Chicago

1949    Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN - Wisconsin Painters & Sculptors First Biennial Members Exh..

© 10/23/2007 Museum of Wisconsin Art, West Bend, Wisconsin                                                        6/2/2010


Wisconsin Affiliations

Wisconsin Art Organizations

No art organizations were found.

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