Emil Kosa, Jr.

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"Plaza Mission"
c. 1940
15 x 21 1/2 inches

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Emil Jean Kosa, Jr. was born in Paris, France on November 28, 1903 to a family of artistic talents. His father, Emil Kosa, Sr., was an artist and craftsman and his mother, Jeanne Mares Kosa, was a pianist at a Paris opera. In 1908, when Kosa was four, the family moved to Cape Cod, Massachusetts, where his father worked alongside Alphonse Mucha designing theatrical posters and painting a series of murals.

In 1912, the family moved back to Czechoslovakia. When World War I broke out, Kosa and his father traveled, working with the Red Cross.

When the war ended, Kosa finished his art education at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague, while his family moved back to the United States. After his graduation in 1921, he went to live in California with his family. He found employment as a muralist and designer.

In 1927, Kosa returned again to Europe to study at L’École des Beaux Arts in Paris, under Pierre Laurens. Kosa was also instructed by Frank Kupka, a friend of his father.

He returned to California in 1928 and married Mary Odisho. He again worked as a muralist and went into business with his father. He continued to paint and draw in his free time.

The 1930s were a prosperous decade during which Kosa established himself as a leading West Coast watercolor artist. He experimented with techniques and styles but always preferred to paint outdoors. His work was widely exhibited throughout America, including at New York’s American Watercolor Society and the National Academy of Design. Although he was gaining fame as a watercolorist, his income from his watercolors was not enough to support his family. He took a job in 1933 in the newly-formed special effects department at 20th Century Fox Studios. He was given the role of the art director and held this position for 35 years. In 1963, Kosa won an Oscar for his work on Cleopatra.

In the 1940s, Kosa exhibited in solo shows at New York City’s Macbeth Gallery, Los Angeles County Museum, and many others. He was represented by Alexander Cowie of the Cowie Gallery and exhibited continuously throughout his life there. By the time Kosa’s wife passed away in 1951, the art world had turned to modern art. Kosa would occasionally receive awards for his watercolors but he began to focus on painting modern non-objective works indoors as the movement called for. His modern works were met with little to no public interest, but his portraits garnered praise. The attention led to commissions and he produced a large number of portraits for movie stars, businessmen, and politicians and thus became known as the top portrait artist in Southern California. He continued to paint through the 1960, until his death in Los Angeles on November 4, 1968.

Member: National Academy of Design; American Watercolor Society; California Watercolor Society (President 1945-46); California Art Club; Los Angeles Art Association; Painters and Sculptors of Los Angeles.

Exhibited: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1926, 1940; Pan-Pacific Exposition, 1928; California State Fair, 1934, 1938, 1939, 1954; Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, 1938-46; Oakland Museum, 1938, 1942, 1950; Golden Gate International Exhibition, 1939; Biltmore Salon, Los Angeles, 1941; Art Institute of Chicago, 1941-1946; National Academy of Design, 1942-1946; Corcoran Gallery of Art, 1941, 1943; Carnegie Institute, 1941, 1944; Metropolitan Museum; Denver Museum; Frye Museum; and many others nationally.

Works Held: National Academy of Design, New York; California State Library, California; Santa Barbara Museum, California; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, California; Boston Museum of Fine Art, Boston; Springfield Museum, Massachusetts; Washington State College, Washington; Dover High School, Denver, Colorado; San Diego Museum, California; Cranbrook Academy, Michigan; Mormon Church, Salt Lake City, Utah; Orange County Museum of Art, California.

Hughes, Edan M. Artists In California 1786-1940. 3rd ed. Vol. 1. Sacramento: Crocker, Art Museum, 2002. N. pag. 2 vols. Print.
McClelland, Gordon T., "Emil Kosa Jr."