Bischoff’s Bright Idea
© By Eric J. Merrell, CAC Historian
From the Winter 2009 CAC Newsletter
When the conversation turns to color, and continues on to the painting of flowers, the name of Franz Arthur Bischoff (1864-1929) is not far away. Born in Bohemia, he first traveled to Vienna to study art before immigrating to America in 1885. In the United States, he began working as a china decorator in New York City before moving to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and then Fostoria, Ohio, continuing to work in the same vein. In 1892 he relocated to Michigan, where he produced ceramic work as well as taught china painting in Detroit and Dearborn. When he moved to Pasadena in 1906 he brought with him a reputation as one of the greatest china painters of his time. In a few short years Bischoff would be rivaled only by Paul de Longpré (1855-1911) in his distinction as a floral artist.
Bischoff was a member of the Painters’ Club of Los Angeles (albeit a late joiner, becoming a member on September 7, 1909, a mere three months before that group disbanded) and then an early and integral member of the new California Art Club, hosting club meetings at his studio in South Pasadena and exhibiting extensively with them. His personal sense of color is evident across the breadth of his work (he added landscape painting to his oeuvre upon his arrival in California), as much a signature of authenticity as his own name.
In 1911, a unique idea gave Bischoff further press and rippled through the art community. The Pasadena Daily News reported that Bischoff had come up with “something entirely new in the way of painting flowers.” He had painted a few new still life pieces – nothing new here – but his most recent floral paintings showcased “great California blooms with the glow of the electric light full upon them.” The article goes on to credit Bischoff with originating the idea, and stimulating viewers’ thoughts with his three paintings of roses lit by an electric light. “…Those who have seen them declare that for illusiveness, delicacy and beauty, nothing can parallel them.” Some of these new paintings would be included in his upcoming fall exhibition.
Post Script: As a way of illustrating how significant this idea was at the time, there is another story involving electric light, which comes from the Painters’ Club a few years earlier: William A. Matern (1867-1923), an Associate Member of the Painters’ Club, donated an electric bulb and shade to that group on February 2, 1909. It was motioned, seconded and unanimously carried to send him a thank you letter. The Secretary, Martin Jacob Jackson (1871-1955) , suggested that the Club present Mr. Matern with an illuminated testimonial – Jackson to donate the work, and other members to contribute to the frame and materials. Such was the importance of an electric light bulb to early 20th century artists.
 Edan Milton Hughes, Artists in California, 1786-1940, Third Edition, p.107
 Ibid., p.108
 Art and Artists, Pasadena Daily News, July 1, 1911, 8:1-2
 Minutes, The Painters’ Club of Los Angeles, September 7, 1909
 Antony Anderson, California Art Club, Los Angeles Times, February 13, 1910
 California Art Club Annual Exhibitions (1911-12, 1915-19, 1921-26), and Spring Exhibitions (1917-19)
 Artists in California, loc. cit.
 Art and Artists, loc. cit.
 Minutes, op. cit., February 2, 1909
 Ibid., December 1, 1908
 Ibid., February 2, 1909