Roger Kuntz

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"Pedestrian Spiral"
Oil on canvas
40 x 50 1/2 inches

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Roger Edward Kuntz is best described as a 20th-century Renaissance man. He was a highly intelligent and active participant in the world around him--Kuntz pursued many interests in his life: painter, sculptor, fisherman, craftsman, teacher, and jazz musician. He was a quick wit who enjoyed entertaining friends as much as he enjoyed painting.

Roger Kuntz was born on January 4, 1926, in San Antonio, Texas. His life began tragically with the death of his father, a U.S. Army officer, when Roger was three years. Wanting to be close to family, his mother moved Roger and his elder brother to San Diego, California in 1933. Roger enrolled at Pomona College in southern California in 1943 where he began his formal art education, which was interrupted when he enlisted in the U.S. Army at the age of eighteen to serve during World War II.

After World War II ended, Roger continued his education at Pomona, receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1948 and subsequently, a Master of Fine Arts degree from the affiliated Claremont Graduate School in 1950. At Claremont, he studied under and was greatly influenced by the formal realist painter Henry Lee McFee. During his early career, Kuntz received many prize awards for his still life paintings.

Upon graduation, he married and then honeymooned in France and Italy, whose cities and towns served as the subject matter of his next series of paintings. He garnered national recognition in the 1950s when he received first place and a purchase award at the National Academy of Design (1952), purchase awards at the Denver Art Museum (1952 and '53), and top prizes at the Los Angeles Museum of Art (1953, '54 and '56).

In 1954, Kuntz was appointed to the teaching staff of Scripps College in Claremont, California, upon the recommendation of the noted California artist Millard Sheets, where he remained for eight years. During this time, he was represented by the Felix Landau Gallery in Los Angeles, and he had one-man shows in New York, Chicago, and San Francisco. He participated in major national group exhibitions, such as the Corcoran Gallery of Art in 1953 and the III Bienal de São Paulo.

In 1956, Kuntz took a year-long sabbatical upon receiving the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation grant for Fine Arts Painting. Among the works completed during his fellowship were the Interior Series paintings, which were semi-abstracted studies of his living room, often featuring his wife Margaret and the family dog.

Kuntz began his most critically acclaimed series of paintings in 1959: the Freeway Series; a study of abstract values in the conventional images of the Los Angeles highways, bridges, and road signs that made up the city’s growing intrastate transportation system. The October 19, 1962 issue of Life magazine included an article about leading California artists featuring: Stanton Macdonald-Wright, John McLaughlin, Billy Al Bengston, and Roger Kuntz, who was photographed for the article standing on the beach in front of two of his freeway series paintings. The following year Kuntz exhibited his bathtub series of paintings and bronze sculptures, which led critics to identify him as Southern California’s response to the Bay Area Figurative artists.

Kuntz moved from Claremont to Laguna Beach in 1963 where he taught painting at the newly established Laguna Beach School of Art and Design. He divorced shortly after moving to Laguna. During his years in Laguna he completed paintings of the Goodyear blimp, tennis scenes, and local beach landmarks, as well as bronze and ceramic sculpture. He continued to participate in both regional and national exhibitions.

Sadly, Kuntz developed cancer in 1973 which affected his ability to paint. On August 22, 1975 he committed suicide at his home in Laguna Beach, California. Roger Kuntz is considered to be one of the most accomplished artists associated with the Laguna Beach art colony since the early 20th century plein-air painters.

Works Held: The Bowers Museum, Santa Ana, California; Krannert Art Museum, Champaign, Illinois; Laguna Art Museum, Laguna Beach, California; Long Beach Museum of Art, Long Beach, California; Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach, California; and Pomona College Museum of Art, Claremont, California.