Joseph Tomanek

The Bathers, 1935
Oil Paint
24 x 27 in
To me, this superb antique painting has the allure of a Maxfield Parrish, without the high six-figure pricetag. Indeed, Tomanek was highly trained and accomplished, and his work is in museum collections; he actually won the Logan Prize at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1938. Here we see three nudes at seaside, two chatting perched on a rock and a third kneeling on the shore. (I have photographed it in both outdoor and indoor studio lighting.) The sun is giving off a subtle peach-colored haze that reflects on the gentle waves. Beautiful evocation of light on the water. Clearly signed. Comes in an antique gold plein-air frame, in good shape. Painting itself measures 18" x 21", framed size 24" x 27".

Biographical Information From AskArt (with source attribution at the end):
Joseph Tomanek, a painter active mainly in Indiana and Illinois, was born on a farm in Straznice, Czechoslovakia (in Southeastern Moravia) on April 16, 1889 and died in 1974. An old biography in The Palette and Chisel (June 1929) tells of Joseph carving his own violin out of pine wood, and he demonstrated some talent in music. First he studied the rudiments of art at the School of Design in Prague, then emigrated to America, partly to escape three years of military service, and arrived in Chicago in 1910. His actual profession was interior designer but he took more art classes at the Art Institute of Chicago under a compatriot, Antonin Sterba (1875-1963), who had been trained in the Paris academies. Albert Krehbiel and Karl Buehr were Tomanek's other teachers at the AIC. Between 1919 and 1931, Tomanek exhibited works at the Art Institute, including Cornfield, Bohemian Costume Study, Gypsy and From My Studio Window (Vanderpoel Art Association, Chicago).

Tomanek wrote about the difficulties he had when posing nude models in Chicago: "In Paris you can rent little garden studios and pose your models there in privacy. Here, if I work out of doors, I have to pose the girls in bathing suits." (Paul Gilbert, Sunday Chicago Sun, 15 July 1945). Reportedly Tomanek followed the old eclectic method of creating an ideal nude, combining the best features from various models. This academic procedure goes back to seventeenth-century theorists Giovanni Bellori and André Félibien, and was continued through the eighteenth century when neoclassical art theorist Anton Raphael Mengs made the analogy of bees collecting nectar from a variety of flowers. Besides nudes, Tomanek painted intimate landscapes, neo-Rococo garden scenes much like those of Frederick Ballard Williams, floral still-lives and murals in local churches. By 1920 Tomanek was a member of the Bohemian Art Club; soon he joined the Association of Chicago Painters and Sculptors, the Chicago Gallery Association and the Palette and Chisel Club. During the 1920s, thanks to three scholarships, Tomanek spent four years in Europe, which was one of the professional goals of many young American artists.

In 1938 Tomanek won the Logan Prize at the Art Institute of Chicago for Thoughts of the Future, a half-length nude strumming a guitar, which recalled the Salon days of Cabanel and Bouguereau for Peyton Boswell (Art Digest, 1 October 1938). Tomanek was one of the artists enrolled in the Illinois Art Project, 1935-1943. The Indianapolis Museum of Art has his painting called Milking Time.

C.L.J., "Joseph Tomanek, Painter of Murals," The Palette and Chisel 6 (June 1929): 1-2; Sparks, Esther. "A Biographical Dictionary of Painters and Sculptors in Illinois 1808-1945," Diss., Northwestern University, June 1971, p. 637.

Submitted by Richard H. Love and Michael Preston Worley, Ph.D.