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HC Westermann (1922–1981)

Horace Westermann, also known as HC Westermann, was born in Los Angeles, California in 1922. He is known for his contributions as a sculptor and printmaker.

HC Westermann's artistic style involved meticulous craftsmanship. He was painstaking in his approach to his sculpture-making. In fact, he acquired much of his skill as a sculptor through formal training and professional work as a carpenter. His colleagues and employers, however, often urged him to produce at a faster pace despite the superior quality of his work. Ultimately, this pressure to sacrifice quality for speed is what led him to drift away from carpentry and toward artmaking.

As a child, HC Westermann had a natural penchant for building. He built his own toys as a young boy, and eventually even helped his parents build a portion of their home. 

At age 20, HC Westermann enlisted in the Marine Corps and set out to serve in World War II. The horror that Westermann witnessed while at war is said to have informed much of his artistic work, notably his "Death Ships" series.

After the war, Westermann went on to enroll in the School of the Art Institute of Chicago using the G.I. Bill to study Fine Art. He picked up work as a carpenter at this time to supplement the G.I. Bill and to help support his growing family.

Westermann's first solo exhibition was in 1956. In 1959, his work was featured in “New Images of Man” at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. By 1968, he had achieved retrospectives at the Los Angeles County Museum of Modern Art and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago.


HC Westermann created art that expressed his anti-militaristic viewpoints, forged through his experiences as a World War II and Korean War veteran. When Westermann's son Gregory came of age, he enlisted in the military too. This only incited Westermann's desire to make art showcasing his views on the insanity of warfare.

HC Westermann's body of work is said to have inspired West Coast Funk artists and the Chicago Imagists, though he never formally involved himself with these groups.

In 1978-1979 Westermann had a retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art, which gave way to a number of retrospectives across the United States. 

HC Westermann died in 1981. The first posthumous retrospective of his work took place in May, 2002 at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington DC.

Museum Collections:
Ackland Art Museum (Chapel Hill, NC)
David & Alfred Smart Museum Of Art (Chicago, IL)
Museum of Contemporary Art-Chicago (Chicago, IL)
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SF MOMA) (San Francisco, CA)
The Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art (Norman, OK)
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art (Kansas City, MO)
The University of Arizona Museum of Art (Tucson, AZ)
Whitney Museum of American Art (New York City, NY)

Biography of H.C. Westermann on Wikipedia
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