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Erle Loran (1905 - 1999) 


Loran, artist and formal-analysis author on Cézanne paintings, was born Erleloran Johnson in Minneapolis.  He entered University of Minnesota briefly, between 1922-1923, switching to the Minneapolis School of Art (now the Minneapolis College of Art and Design), where he graduated in 1926.


Through the Chaloner Foundation, a body funding the study of "great works of art" by students in the museums of Europe, he continued study on the continent. It was at that time that Johnson became fascinated by the artist Paul Cézanne. Like the Cézanne scholar, John Rewald, Johnson combed the French countryside around Aix-en-Provence, France, photographing the scenes and motifs Cézanne used in his paintings of Mont-Ste. Victoire and the countryside. He immersed himself in the study of Cézanne, even living in Cézanne's studio temporarily.


Returning to the United States in 1930, he settled in New York publishing art criticism in art magazines and showing his own work. He contracted Tuberculosis and returned to Minneapolis where he was employed in the Public Works of Art Project, a federal program that supported out-of-work artists during the Depression. His subject matter returned to that of regional Minnesota.


Sometime in the mid-1930s, Johnson changed his name to Erle Loran. In 1936, he was appointed to the faculty at the University of California, Berkeley. He served as chair of the Art Department in the early 1950s.  As an artist, Loran became the leader of a group of painters known as the "Berkeley School." His artwork was collected by the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, the Los Angeles County Museum and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.


In 1943 Loran published his book Cézanne's Composition, approaching the artist's work from the approach of form and space almost exclusively. At a time when Post-Impressionist art still confused much of the American public, the book explained Cézanne analytically based upon the formalist construction of the work, with diagrams and arrows, describing the art in aesthetic terms. Loran's book was an immediate success with teachers and students. It was adopted by many universities that only then were beginning to teach modern art.


In 1954 Loran studied with Hans Hofmann, the painter and theoretician of modern art in New York. His painting students at Berkeley included Richard Diebenkorn and Sam Francis. Loran retired from the University in 1972.

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