Artist Profile: Edith Schloss

Our May 25, 2023 Modern & Post-War Art auction features a wide array: from the Post-Impressionist era, a work on paper by Gwen John, up to the works of abstract artist James Siena. Among the highlights, an oil by the author of the New York Times “Times Critics’ Top Books of 2021” list, The Loft Generation—Edith Schloss.

Early Life

Edith Schloss was born in Offenbach am Main, Germany, on July 20, 1919, where her family ran a leather factory. Her father, determined Edith master languages, sent her to private schools in Germany and, when she was only sixteen years old, he secured positions for her with families in London, Florence, and finally Holland working as an au pair to further her language knowledge. In 1938, when relations with her host family in Holland were not working out, Schloss falsified employment documents to return to England. With tensions in Germany increasing, and her parent’s home vandalized by Nazi brownshirts, Edith, aided by friends within Germany, successfully got her mother, father, and brother out of the country shortly before Germany invaded Poland.  In October of 1941, as the Blitz began, Edith found passage to New York with the aid of a Quaker group.

Move to the United States

From left to right: Will Barnet, Child Reaching, woodcut, 1940. Sold February 2023 for $1,170; Helen Demott, Salty, oil on canvas, 1946. Sold December 2022 for $3,750.

After a brief stay in Brooklyn, Schloss moved to Boston and enrolled at the Boston School of Art. In 1942, she moved to New York, and in June enrolled in art classes at The Art Students League. Her teachers at the League included Harry Sternberg, Morris Kantor, John Groth, and Will Barnet. Two of her fellow classmates, Lucia Vernarelli and Helen DeMott, became longtime friends.

Edith Schloss, Untitled (of Myth and Gods), oil & crayon on canvas, 1995. Sold December 2022 for $3,500.

Settling into New York City she quickly made contact and formed lasting friendships with the Chelsea crowd, amongst them writers, photographers, painters, and filmmakers. She married filmmaker Rudy Burkhardt in 1947, and that same year had her first solo show at Ashby Gallery, NY. At this time, she was affiliated with the Jane Street Group, the first New York artists collective, founded by Nell Blain and consisting of Hyde Solomon, Leland Bell, Louisa Matthiasdottir, Albert Kresch, and Judith Rothschild.

Fairfield Porter and his wife Anne Channing Porter were amongst the first friends she and Rudy acquired. The two would remain Edith’s lifelong friends. Fairfield introduced Edith to Elaine and Willem de Kooning, prompted by Edith admiring a small abstract painting by Willem. They met at the studio of Willem de Kooning’s at 116 West Twenty-First Street, an address that would later become Rudy and Edith’s home.

Edith Schloss, Sweet Peas, oil on canvas, 1979. Sold November 2021 for $1,125.

In 1956 Schloss exhibited work alongside the American Abstract Artists (AAA) members at Poindexter Gallery, Kraushaar Gallery, and March Gallery, NY. The AAA, founded in 1936, is a collective of artists that have used their strength in numbers to establish exhibitions during periods in history when American galleries and museums omitted abstract American artists with intentional bias. Edith Schloss’ works moved in and out of the pure abstract genre during her lifetime, as did Judith Rothschild’s, who also showed with the AAA at different times in her career.

Judith Rothschild, Monterey Pine, oil on canvas, 1953. At auction May 25, 2023. Estimate $8,000 to $12,000.

She befriended American Surrealist, Joseph Cornell and her interests shifted toward collage and assemblage. In 1961 she was included in the Museum of Modern Art’s landmark exhibition, The Art of Assemblage.

Joseph Cornell, Box 2, rectangular Rectangular card stock matchbox with collage, partially painted wishbone & two wooden beads, circa 1960. Sold March 2023 for $18,750.

Later Life & Death

Schloss’ marriage to Burkhardt ended in 1961. The following year she traveled to Italy on a trip that would extend to the end of her life. Her devotion to painting continued while she shared her creative time writing. In the 1950s she was an editorial assistant for ArtNews. From 1968 until 1986 she was Art Editor for the International Herald Tribune. Amongst her friends in Italy were Giorgio Morandi, Alberto Giacometti, and Cy Twombly.

Edith Schloss, Air Mail, oil on canvas, 1966. At auction May 25, 2023. Estimate $5,000 to $7,000.
Cy Twombly, Nine Discourses on Commodus by Cy Twombly at Leo Castelli, 1964, color offset lithograph poster, 1964. Sold November 2021 for $3,750.

After her death in 2011 a major exhibition, curated by Jason Andrew, was organized by Sundaram Tagore Gallery, NY. Edith Schloss, A Retrospective, February 26 – March 28, 2015. In 2021, a publication of her writings about her time in New York was released. The Loft Generation: From the de Koonings to Twombly: Portraits and Sketches, 1942-2011.

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