|Hirsch began his serious art studies at 17 when he was awarded
a four-year scholarship to the Pennsylvania Museum School of Industrial
Art by the city of Philadelphia. This was followed by a period of study
with George Luks in New York and later with Henry Hensche in Provincetown.
In 1934, when Joseph Hirsch was only 23, he won the coveted Walter Lippincott
Award at the Annual Exhibition of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts
for the best figure painting in oil by an American citizen.
Hirsch followed this award with the prestigious Woolley Fellowship that
provided for a year of study in Paris.
At the 1939 New York Worlds Fair, by public ballot, the Philadelphia native was awarded first choice for the best painting in the Exhibition of Contemporary American Art. In 1949, he also received a Fulbright Fellowship, which allowed him to go back to Paris. There he met or interacted with fellow Americans Paul Strand, Robert Gwathmey and Joseph Floch.
Hirschs murals decorated several Philadelphia public buildings. They depicted Football, Early Unionism, and Adoption. His works are included in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Whitney Museum, Corcoran Gallery and others.
As a social realist and humanist, Hirsch frequently portrayed heroic images of ordinary people doing everyday tasks. For Hirsch, all paintings were a celebration of life and everything within the realm of living circumstance was a font of inspiration of almost equal measure.(1) He noted in a 1970 interview, I usually know where they come from when I think about it. I don't care where they come from On one of the streetcars in Philadelphia I was coming home late at night and saw one tired passenger whose hand was draped over the front seat I mention these merely because I happen to remember these things. I've never painted anything that I've seen that I can remember. I've seen things, which have led to paintings.(2)
Despite the fact that Hirsch refused to abandon representational painting in an era that embraced abstract painting more readily, he was admired widely for his work. In a 1976 exhibition catalogue at Kennedy Galleries, the author defended this stance by stating, These (paintings) are powerful achievements of a powerful artist who has the courage to go his own way.(3) The artists predilection for working with images of the world he inhabits can be summed up with this quote: People bring so much to pictures. And I'm very dependent upon what people bring. They bring up stuff that I would never have -- there's so much there that a painter or writer never dreams of that is there. (4)
View high resolution images of works by Joseph Hirsch when available.