“I am intensely concerned with the believability of my painted world. Again and again I invent objects, people, and even places that do not exist.” (Seeing America, 275)

He taught himself to paint by copying the old masters at the Louvre during the 5 years (1928–33) he lived in Paris. Upon his return from Europe, he moved to NYC...

Dismissed by the more progressive art scene as a society painter, Koch was little known outside his circle of wealthy, connected patrons. But time has a way of revealing something pleasurable that may have been ignored at the time.

Koch captured scenes of a New York society that is mostly gone now. The value of seeing his work isn't just the paintings on their own, it has to do with the delight in viewing a world more formal and refined....

John Koch (Aug. 18, 1909, Toledo-April 19, 1978, NY), American painter, an important figure in 20th c. realist painting. ...best known for his portraits, nudes, and paintings of genteel urban interiors, often set in his own light-filled Manhattan apartment.

Almost all of his work is quiet and cool, full of suppressed story and emotion. The eroticism of the nudes seems more of longing than of carnal celebration. And to my mind, anyway, there's a veiled but persistent sadness running through his work.

In most ways that would matter to a modern-art lover, Koch was not a great artist. A self-taught imitator of the old masters, he painted with facile but cautious finesse, aiming for realist transparency. What he achieved was at best a moody illustration and at worst old-fashioned academic kitsch. And yet there is something fascinating about...
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First Collected by

Suzan Hamer


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