Joseph Kleitsch (1882-1931) was born in Hungary. At the age of seven he had been trained as a painter and worked as an apprentice to a sign painter. Joseph Kleitsch left his apprenticeship after about eighteen months in order to open his own studio as a portrait painter. By the time he was seventeen he was a highly respected and successful portrait artist, having painted such subjects as Franz Josef of Austria. Joseph Kleitsch formal studies took place in Budapest, Munich and Paris, and after he immigrated to Chicago, he furthered his training at the Art Institute of Chicago.
In 1901 Joseph Kleitsch immigrated to Germany and then to the United States, settling in Cincinnati, Ohio. Around 1905 he moved to Denver where he did portraits of prominent businessmen. About 1907 he was in Hutchinson, Kansas, but, after only a short time, he relocated to Mexico City, residing there between 1907 and 1909. It was sometime in 1909 that Joseph Kleitsch moved to Chicago.
In 1912 Joseph Kleitsch achieved recognition for commissioned portraits he had done of Mexican President Francisco Madero and his wife. Well established as a portrait painter, Joseph Kleitsch joined the Palette and Chisel Club and began participating in local exhibitions with the club and at the Art Institute of Chicago around 1914. He began to paint interior scenes with figures, often placed in front of a window. Joseph Kleitsch received high praise for these works and was compared to the Spanish artist Joaquin Sorolla (1863-1923) as well as to Rembrandt.
In 1920 Kleitsch moved to Southern California, establishing residency in Laguna Beach. He was already acquainted with artists who had preceded him, such as Edgar Payne. He again established himself as a portrait painter which was his main source of income, but Joseph Kleitsch also began to create landscapes and still lifes. Joseph Kleitsch was a bold colorist and employed a bravura brush stroke. He especially enjoyed painting in and around Laguna Beach and he would ultimately come to be seen as one of the early California Impressionist painters.
While in Laguna Beach, Joseph Kleitsch and his wife Edna opened the Kleitsch Academy. While teaching at the school, Joseph Kleitsch remained an active painter, making many painting excursions in the California area, including San Francisco and Carmel. In 1925 Joseph Kleitsch traveled to Europe for more subject matter. He visited France and Spain where he painted portraits and landscapes. By this point in his career much of the classic nineteenth century style of his earlier work had transformed into a Post-Impressionistic style that relied on a lighter palette and his now favorite Plein-Air landscapes, gardens, coastal and local street scenes.
Joseph Kleitsch returned to California in November 1927 and continued to paint in Laguna Beach until his untimely death at the age of forty-nine.
Joseph Kleitsch Awards
Gold Medal, Palette and Chisel Club
Silver Medal, Painters and Sculptors Club
First Prize, California State Fair
Grand Prize & Figure Prize, Laguna Beach Art Association