Mission San Juan Capistrano

San Juan Capistrano, CA




Fiesta Suite: The Art of Theodore N. Lukits (1897-1992)

(above: Panoramic View of Portion of Theodore N. Lukits Exhibit in Soldiers Barracks Gallery of Mission San Juan Capistrano. Photo, © 1999 John Hazeltine)


Mission San Juan Capistrano is hosting Fiesta Suite, a world-class exhibition of the best paintings of famous colorist Theodore N. Lukits (1897-1992). It will be held through December 31, 1999; and features many large, colorful portraits of Mexican dancers, vaqueros and other lively subjects painted in the 1930's. (left: Contemplation, pastel, 16 1/2 x 22 inches, Lukits Art Trust)

Lukits was born in Temesvar, Transylvania, and emigrated to the United States with his family at age two. He grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, and later studied at the prestigious Art Institute of Chicago. To support his education, Lukits worked as a jewelry designer and illustrator for such famous publications as the Saturday Evening Post. (right: Spring Sunset, 11 x 15 1/2 inches, California Art Academy)

He recruited Mexican models from movie studio backlots to pose for him, often painting at Mission San Juan Capistrano.

As a young man, Lukits moved to California and was fascinated by what he described as "that California light," and joined the ranks of California Impressionists painting "en plein-air," as the French described the practice of outdoor sketching. While in California, he became intrigued with Mexican culture. The vibrant characters and brightly colored traditional costumes which Lukits saw at local fiestas and rodeos appealed to him as both a portraitist and colorist. He recruited Mexican models from movie studio backlots to pose for him, often painting at Mission San Juan Capistrano. For more than a decade, colorful Latin subjects made up a large part of his artistic production. (left: September Sunset, c. 1925, pastel on paper, 11 x 15 1/2 inches, California Art Academy Collection, TNL316; right: Lukits in front of the Mission's Campanario in 1931)

According to Jeffrey Morseberg, curator of the exhibition, "Lukits was extremely versitale, working with equal facility in pencil, charcoal, pen and ink, watercolor, gouache, pastel and oil. A consummate craftsman, he ground his own paints, suffering lead poisoning as a result. Lukits made the pastels he relied on out of doors, created special palettes, constructed hundreds of brushes and designed and carved his own frames."

A painting traditionalist, Lukits objected to modern styles, which became predominant in the art world in his later years, but was heartened to see a revival of traditional painting styles shortly before his death. (left: Mountain Rainbow, c. 1927, pastel on paper, 11 x 15 1/4 inches, California Art Academy Collection, TNL352)

All images of Lukits paintings are courtesy of Jeffrey Morseberg.



Editor's note:

Click on above images to enlarge them.

For further biographical information on Theodore N. Lukits, please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.

Also see Resource Library's Pacific Asia Museum (10/14/98) article on Lukits.

Read more articles and essays concerning this source by visiting the sub-index page for Mission San Juan Capistrano in Resource Library.

rev. 9/10/05

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Search for more articles and essays on American art in Resource Library. See America's Distinguished Artists for biographical information on historic artists.

This page was originally published in 1999 in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information.

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