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  • Theodore Wassmer

Theodore M. Wassmer

Theodore Milton Wassmer was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, on the 23rd of February, 1910. He is an American painter with a passion for the visual and musical arts. He lives in Salt Lake City, UT.

Wassmer studied for four years at the Art Student's League in both New York City and Woodstock. He began studying the Impressionists and Paul Cezanne, a Post-Impressionist. He also copied the old masters at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Wassmer's prolific body of works attest to his artistic commitment. Over 2,000 of his paintings, watercolors, and drawings are in the hands of private collectors, museums, colleges, and schools in the United States and Europe.

Biography courtesy of The Springville Museum of Art.

Theodore Milton Wassmer is an American painter who in his 90's, looks more like an athlete than a man with a passion for the visual and musical arts. He was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, on the 23rd of February, 1910, the eldest of eight children. As a youth, he enjoyed many sports ranging from baseball, basketball, swimming, and skiing to fishing. He also sought to express himself musically and on the stage. Formal training was beyond his means, but by watching others, he learned to play the piano.

From childhood, he was fascinated by colors. He would sit for hours and contemplate the variations of white in cloud formations, the sonorous sunsets, the snow-covered peaks, and the nostalgic kaleidoscope of autumn. "I would sit on the edge of the lake at Liberty Park," he muses, "and observe the trees' reflections and wonder if there were some way to record it all in color." But it was not until his seventh-grade teacher, Mattie C. Sanford, put up a still life in a "once a week" art class that he knew it was possible to create a painting.

At this time, Wassmer had never seen an oil painting, nor an artist at work. It was not until 1927, when he met the elderly French painter, Frank Zimbeaux, then living in Salt Lake City, that he was introduced to the visual arts. He impetuously told Zimbeaux that he too wanted to be an artist and asked to buy a picture by the painter. He took the masterpiece home and tried to copy Zimbeaux' technique. From then on, Wassmer knew that this was the avenue to express his feelings about color--with paint, brush, and canvas.

The Great Depression hit Utah hard in 1931. The working members of Wassmer's family all lost their jobs, leaving him the sole support of ten on his $55-per-month salary. In 1933, he finally was able to buy some oil points and make his own canvas boards.

Becoming a painter was now his sole interest. Wassmer noted that "I showed some of my work to Miss Corneck at the Pembroke Company where I purchased my art materials. She said she felt I had a lot of talent and suggested that I get in touch with Florence Ware, a recognized teacher of art in our city." It took Wassmer a year to gain the courage to call on Miss Ware. When he did, she liked his work and told him to paint 50 more landscapes and come back and see her in a year. He did just that after visiting the World's Fair in Chicago and viewing the masters on display. A friendship developed between the two that lasted many years. Wassmer helped Miss Ware on Works Project Administration projects as well as modeling for her.

The war interrupted Wassmer's art career when he enlisted in the Army Air Force early in January of 1942. A freak accident in July 1944 paralyzed his painting arm. The experience was devastating. He was sent to a hospital in Brigham City, Utah, to see if use of his arm could be restored. In late October 1945, after nearly four years in the Army Air Force, he was discharged with about 10 percent use of his injured arm.

In December of 1945, he married Judy Farnsworth Lund in New York City, whom he had known and courted since the 30s. Judy had been the Utah State Art director for the WPA for a number of years, before moving to Manhattan in 1938. She too, was a fine artist and a painter. Although she was the light of his life, it had been a long-distance relationship. They spent the following summer painting on Cape Cod.

Wassmer studied for four years at the Art Student's League in both New York City and Woodstock. The innovations then taking place in New York were beginning to have an effect on the impressionable young artist. He began studying the Impressionists and Paul Cezanne, a Post-Impressionist. He also copied the old masters at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

In 1952, the Wassmers decided the quiet and clean air of country living would provide a more congenial atmosphere for their creative efforts. They purchased an old stone house in Bearsville, New York, two miles from the famous Woodstock Art Colony. To further their art education and refill their creative reservoirs, they made two trips to Europe, studying in the museums of Spain and Italy. Wassmer's prolific body of works attest to his artistic commitment. Over 2,000 of his paintings, watercolors, and drawings are in the hands of private collectors, museums, colleges, and schools in the United States and Europe.

He has always had a happy outlook on life and yet has found art to be a lonely pursuit. He believes art is a dialogue with oneself, while working out personal conflicts. As all true artists must, Wassmer draws from his own reality--where the aura of mystery is created.

In late 1985, the Wassmers sold their property in New York and returned to Salt Lake City, where they now reside and are active in the fine arts throughout the state. They have been particularly generous to the Springville Museum of Art, where their donations have established the Lund-Wassmer Collection. This collection was deeded to the museum to promote art education in the state. The Wassmers continue to donate both art and funds to support the museum's collection. During August 1995, Ted Wassmer had a retrospective exhibit of his work at the Springville Museum of Art.

Biography courtesy of The Springville Museum of Art.

Newspaper Articles

"1990 Arts in Review." The Deseret News, December 30, 1990.

"At 92 1/2, Wassmer Colors His World in Black and White." The Salt Lake Tribune, September 15, 2002.

"Art for Life' Auction Today Benefits Utah Aids Foundation." The Salt Lake Tribune, December 5, 1993.

"Cannon Bloomed Late, But Art Was a Constant." The Salt Lake Tribune, October 17, 1999.

"Coming Up: Visual Art." The Salt Lake Tribune, February 14, 1999.

"Coming Up: Visual Art." The Salt Lake Tribune, May 17, 1998.

"Critic's Choice." The Salt Lake Tribune, October 3, 1997.

"Eighty-something: 5 Visual Artists in Their 80s Find the Fountain of Youth by Producing Art." The Deseret News, March 27, 1994.

"Galleries." The Deseret News, September 20, 1998.

"Governor's Awards to Honor Artists, Organizations." The Salt Lake Tribune, April 9, 2000.

"Group Art Shows This Summer are Filled with Number of Surprises." The Deseret News, July 23, 1990.

"Portrait of an Artist: 87-year-old Utahn is Still Going Strong." The Deseret News, October 10, 1997.

"Showing at Local Art Galleries." The Deseret News, February 7, 1999.

"Small World, Big Canvas; Many Views Shaped Utah Art Some Reluctantly; Showcase of Utah's Abstract Art." The Salt Lake Tribune, November 17, 1996.

"Sneak Previews of 4 Local Art Exhibitions." The Deseret News, February 11, 1990.

"Utah's `City of Art' Plays the Part." The Deseret News, August 18, 1991.

"What's Showing at Local Art Galleries?" The Deseret News, January 10, 1999.

"What's Coming: Visual Arts." The Salt Lake Tribune, July 30, 1995.

"Where the focus is on ...art." The Salt Lake Tribune, March 21, 1997.

Books

Davenport, Ray. Davenport's Art Reference. Ventura, CA: Gordon's Art Reference, 2001.

Marquis. Who's Who in the West. 27th edition. Chicago, IL: Marquis Who's Who, Inc., 2001.

Olpin, Robert S., William C. Seifrit, and Vern G. Swanson. Artists of Utah. Salt Lake City, UT: Gibbs Smith Publishing Co., 1999.

Swanson, Vern G., Robert S. Olpin, and William C. Seifrit. Utah Art. Layton, UT: Peregrine Smith Books, 1991.

Swanson, Vern G., Robert S. Olpin, and William C. Seifrit. Utah Paintings and Sculpture. Salt Lake City, UT: Gibbs Smith Publishers, 1991.

 Last Modified 8/28/13