Loran was born Erleloran Johnson in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He attended the University of Minnesota for two years, transferring to the Minneapolis School of Art from which he graduated. In 1926, Loran won the Paris Prize, an award that gave him funds to travel to France. For some time, he lived in Cezanne’s studio and, ultimately, spent three years in the Aix en Provence region.
He was profoundly influenced by the work of Cezanne, writing his book, Cezanne’s Composition, which was published in 1943 and was a classic academic art text for decades.
When he returned to the United State he lived in New York for awhile but, upon being diagnosed with tuberculosis, he returned to the cleaner air of Minneapolis. During his residence there he was involved with the Public Works Art Project and it was at this time he changed his name to Erle Loran (sometimes spelled Earle Loran).
In 1936 Loran moved to California to take up a position teaching at the University of California at Berkley where he eventually became Chairman of the Art Department. He invited the painter Hans Hofmann, who had come to the U.S. when Fascism and Naziism began to rise in Europe, to be a visiting professor.
Hoffmann influenced Loran to become more abstract in his work. They remained close friends even after Hofmann left to begin teaching in New York.
In the 1930’s and early 40’s Loran spent time in California and Nevada doing plein air watercolors in remote locations. He also traveled to New Mexico and did a series of pastels of the New Mexico landscape. This drawing, done on his New Mexico trip, shows the flattened space, saturated color areas, and linear accents associated with Hofmann’s influence. It is possible he met Modernist painters Andrew Dasburg and Marsden Hartley in Taos during his New Mexico trip. Dasburg had also been much influenced by Cezanne and later Cubist work.
Loran was an exponent of the “Berkley School” of painting, a style which stressed abstract linear and textural qualities. Some of his students took these elements and combined them with recognizable subject matter, developing a style known as “Bay Area Figurative Painting”. Richard Diebenkorn and Elmer Bishoff are among his most notable students in this group.
Watercolors, oil paintings, and pastels were Loran’s primary media. His work can be found at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Denver Museum of Art, University of Minnesota, and Santa Barbara Museum.
image size 5 3/8” X 7 3/8”
gold period frame
size 11” X 14”