John von Wicht was born in Holstein, Germany in 1888. He studied at the Private Art School of the Grand Duke of Hesse in Darmstadt, Germany, and at the Royal School for Fine and Applied Arts in Berlin. At the age of 17, he served as an apprentice in a painting and decorating shop, and spent his spare time drawing. He began painting in oil about 1908 and sold his first canvas soon thereafter.
During World War I, Von Wicht was wounded and partially paralyzed. While recovering, he did book designs and illustration work, and discovered the artists Mondrian and Malevich. In 1923, Von Wicht emigrated to the United States, settling in New York where he worked for a lithography company and then joined a firm making stained glass and mosaics.
It was during this time that the artist began executing abstractions in a linear, geometric style. During the 1930's, Von Wicht joined the AAA (American Abstract Artist group), and during the 40's his work ranged from abstract to semi-abstract, cubist inspired work.
During World War II, he served as captain of a supply barge ferrying food to army transport ships in New York harbor, and harbor motifs began appearing in his abstractions. In the mid-1950's, Von Wicht developed his mature abstract style, which can be best described as lyrical expressionism. It is with these unique pieces that von Wicht's life-long struggle to achieve a personal artistic breakthrough is finally achieved.
In 1936, Von Wicht had his first solo show of mural designs at the Architect's Building. In 1939, there was an exhibition of his paintings at the Theodor A. Kohn Gallery, and the following year he exhibited at the Whitney Museum of American Art. During his career, Von Wicht had more than 30 one-man shows, exhibited at countless museum group shows, and won more than 25 art awards. He is remembered by those who knew him as an "artist's artist".
Von Wicht died in 1970.
Berlin Academy of Fine Art
Brooklyn Museum, 1924-25, 1939, 1943, 1950 (prize), 1951,
1955 (prize), 1958 (prize), 1960, 1964
Whitney Museum of American Art, 1940-67
Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, 1947-68
Art Institute of Chicago, 1947
Worlds Fair, New York, 1939
Corcoran Gallery of Art, 1947-61
Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1941
Salons of America, 1927, 1931, 1934
Audubon Artists, 1952-55, 1958 (medal)
Boston Art Festival, 1958 (prize)
Art USA, 1959
Ford Foundation, 1960 (purchase prize)
Santa Barbara Museum, 1959 (retrospective)
Artists Gallery, NY
Bertha Schaefer Gallery
Martin Diamond Fine Art
National Museum, Stockholm
Musee National d'Art Moderne, Paris
National Gallery, Berlin
Museo d'Art Contemporains, Madrid
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Whitney Museum of American Art
Museum of Modern Art
Cincinnati Art Museum
Library of Congress
Museum of Fine Art, Boston
University of Illinois
Herron Art Institute
Kansas State University
Pittsburgh Museum of Art