Charles Knetch
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Biography: Charles Knecht

While many of the early abstract painters began their careers as more conventional, representational painters and then migrated into abstraction, Charles Knecht has followed a different route. Growing up in the dynamic art world of New York in the 1960’s, Knecht came under the spell of the Abstract Expressionists early in his art career. Franz Klein (1904-1962) and Willem de Kooning (1904-1997) were important influences. However, as his career progressed, he found himself gravitating back to a loose and naturalistic way of painting that was inspired by French Impressionism.

Charles Knecht was born in New York City in 1945. He grew up in the Bronx, which in those days was an ethnic mix of Irish, Italian and Jewish neighborhoods. Coming from an artistic family, he applied himself to art at an early age. Graduation from the prestigious High School of Art & Design in Manhattan, he then went on to the School of Visual Arts, where he studied with Byrne Hogarth and John Gundelfinger. It was Gundelfinger who became his mentor and assured him that there was still a great deal of latitude for creativity within the pre-abstract European tradition.

Knecht’s studies were interrupted by a stint in the United States Navy during the height of the Vietnam War. While based in Spain, he received his discharge from the Navy and thus gained the opportunity to travel on the continent. Knecht traveled around Europe for months, painting and selling his canvases to pay his way.

Returning to New York, he began spending time in the Catskill Mountains painting outdoors. While in the city, he painted in Manhattan’s famous Central Park.

In 1977, he moved to California which offered a new life and a wealth of bright, sunlit subjects to explore. He found the unique atmospheric conditions of Southern California brought out the best in his work.

“ A sense of atmosphere-of breathable air, distance and natural light permeate his canvases. Broadly sweeping and quickly applied, his brushstrokes give an intensity to the work-even in the quietest of late afternoon images.

With much of today’s art stressing alienation and anti-humanism as social commentary, Knecht sees his work as a move back towards a more literal communication in a genre that captures the essence of romanticism in landscape painting.” *

Knecht’s paintings can be found in collections, both public and private, in the United States, Spain, Germany, England, Holland, Israel and Egypt.

*Thomas R. Anderson, Art historian






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