Written on the back of this arresting canvas is the notation “Quick Sketch by Will Foster” and someone has identified the sitter as a Karl Thalheimer on the stretcher, In all likelihood this is probably the German artist Paul Thalheimer, known for his Christian themes and church decorations in Germany, whose work was included by the Nazis in their infamous Degenerate Art exhibit. One may suppose this artist might at that point have fled Germany for exile in America where he would have met the illustrator Will Foster, perhaps even have taught alongside him at Chouinard. (Nelbert Murphy Chouinard had ties to the art world in Germany, having studied at the same art school in Munich as Thalheimer. Chouinard, Thalheimer and Foster were all each others’ contemporaries, pretty exactly. The scenario of Chouinard having offered an exiled colleague teaching work is certainly not far-fetched, especially since she liked to supplement her core group of permanent teachers with a myriad of temporary influences.) This is a terrific piece of work, a bravura demonstration of technique, an artists’s portrait of a fellow artist, animated by affection and admiration.
Paul Thalheimer (born 1884 in Heilbronn – died 1948) was a German painter and graphic designer who was best known for his Christian motifs. He studied art at the academies of Stuttgart and München, and settled down in München (1908) for most of his life. He was part of the Münchener Sezession and was a leading figure, in addition to taking part in exhibitions. After the First World War he found many projects in church restoration, making coloured woodcuts based on Old Testament topics. He was named Professor in 1928 – and a degenerate artist in 1937. He is perhaps most famous for St. Karl’s Church in Nürnberg. There he used a thin paint containing casein to keep the structure of the stone in the walls, at the same time as allowing his figures to be identifiable.
A German auction-house’s short on-line biography notes his “numerous trips abroad”.
As a child William Frederick Foster and his family moved to Colorado, but he returned to Cincinnati in 1898 and enrolled at the Art Academy. He studied with Joseph Henry Sharp and Frank Duveneck. he was also an amateur musician. In 1902, he went to New York City where he painted scenery and studied at the New York School with Robert Henri and William Merritt Chase. From 1903 to 1931 he worked as an illustrator, with a brief teaching stint in 1919 at the Art Institute of Chicago. He sold his first illustration to “Life” magazine in 1903. After that he worked for most of the major magazines including “Collier’s”, “The Saturday Evening Post”, and “Harper’s Monthly”. He won the National Academy of Design’s Clark Prize (1926) for the best figure composition painted in the United States by a non-academician. The following year, he was voted an Associate Member based on recognition for “The Girl in Brown.” After the War he moved to Los Angeles and devoted his energy to painting, exhibiting, and teaching. He taught at the Chouinard School of Art in Los Angeles and gave private classes in his studio. He also worked on a mural project at the Hearst estate in Wyntoon, California and was an active member of the California Art Club.