E. OSCAR THALINGER (American, 1885 - 1965)
E. Oscar Thalinger, painter and teacher, was born in Alsace-Lorraine, France, in 1885. Thalinger and his parents came to the U. S. when he was four. He had always loved to draw and at the age of fifteen, Thalinger enrolled in the St. Louis School of Fine Arts where he studied under several artists including Wuerpel, Stoddard and Campbell. It was there that he studied painting and drawing during the day and sculpture at night. He also traveled to Munich for a year in 1908, where he was influenced by both French Cubism and German Abstract Expressionism. These styles would appear in several of his later works. Thalinger spent nearly forty years of his life working as the Registrar for the St. Louis Art Museum (1914-1952). During that time he was responsible for installing over three-quarters of the museum’s exhibitions. He also taught at the St. Louis People’s Art Club. As an artist, he worked late at night under the artificial light of an automobile headlight. He knew that the paintings were going to be viewed under artificial light, and the combination of the blue daylight lamp and the ordinary globe provided the mellow glowing ambience he desired. Thalinger’s paintings of the 1930s consisted of landscapes, cityscapes, some still lifes and portraits. The late 1920s and early 1930s were a period when he focused on Ozark subject matter and images of “old St. Louis landmarks and dwellings, which had lost their former glory.” Thalinger immersed himself in his work. He spent many hours out of doors, absorbing the moods and colors of the land, city and people. Before painting his prize-winning landscape, “Spirit of the Ozarks” (Halsey C. Ives Prize, Artists’ Guild, 1927), Thalinger contemplated the subject for several years. He spent weeks in the Ozarks, sleeping on the ground under the stars to acquire the “feeling” of the environment before returning to his studio in the city to paint. The resulting painting did not describe one particular spot, but rather captured the character of the cabins tucked away in the rugged Ozark hills. Much of his later work (1950s) turned from his former more representational / modernist style towards the abstract. He never laid out a sketch before painting, preferring to work directly with his brush on the canvas. His reasoning for this method was that he did not have time to sketch while he observed; rather he preserved his impressions, which he would record later on canvas, “through color sensations”. Thalinger painted until a stroke impaired his eyesight at the age of 78 and passed away in 1965 after suffering a second stroke. His career spanned half a century.