Emil Kosa, Jr. (1903-1968)
Emil Jean Kosa, Jr. was born in Paris, France on November 28, 1903 to an artistic family. His father, Emil Kosa, Sr. was an artist and craftsman, while his mother Jeanne Mares Kosa was a pianist at a Paris opera. He moved with his family in 1908 to Cape Cod, Massachusetts, so that his father could work alongside Alphonse Mucha in designing theatrical posters and painting a series of murals.
In 1912, the family moved to Czechoslovakia (Austria-Hungary). When WWI ended, Kosa finished his art education at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague while his family moved back to the United States. After his graduation, he moved to the States and lived in California with his family in 1921. He found employment as a mural artist and designer working for decorating firms and architects. He continued to take classes at the California Art Institute in Los Angeles in 1927.
Upon receiving his naturalization in 1927, he left to Europe to study at L'Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris and under Pierre Laurens. He also received instruction on modern forms of artistic expression and non-objective painting from Frank Kupka. He returned to California in 1928 and married Mary Odisho. He worked as a mural artist and operated a business with his father producing decorative art for churches and auditoriums. On the side, he continued to paint and draw landscape subjects and interesting old buildings and sold those through local galleries.
The 1930s was a prosperous decade where Kosa established himself as a leading West Coast watercolor artist. Much of his subject matter at this point depicted trains, oil wells, industrial city scenes, and trucks parked for repair. His work was widely exhibited around America, including New York's American Watercolor Society and the National Academy of Design. He took a job in 1933 in the newly-formed special effects department at 20th Century Fox Studios where he was soon given the role of the art director and held this position for 35 years. In 1963, Kosa won an Oscar for his work on Cleopatra.
In the 1940s, Kosa exhibited in solo shows at New York City's Macbeth Gallery, Los Angeles County Museum, and many others. He was represented by Alexander Cowie of the Cowie Gallery and exhibited continuously throughout his life there. By the time Kosa's wife passed away in 1951, the art world began to focus on modern art. Kosa would occasionally receive awards for his watercolors, but he began to focus on painting modern non-objective works indoors while some days painting his watercolors outdoors. His modern works were met with little to no public interest, but his portraits were met with praise. He produced a large number of commissioned portraits of movie stars, businessmen, and politicians and became known as the top portrait artist in Southern California. In 1952, on his trip to Paris, he married ballet dancer Elizabeth Twaddel. He continued to paint through the 1960s. His oeuvre includes portraits, seascapes, landscapes, figures, and florals in oil and watercolor. He died in Los Angeles on November 4, 1968.
Member: National Academy of Design; American Watercolor Society; California Watercolor Society (President 1945-46); California Art Club; Los Angeles Art Association; Painters and Sculptors of Los Angeles.
Exhibited: Los Angeles County Museum of History, Science and Art, 1926, 1940; California State Fair, 1934, 1938, 1939, 1954; Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, 1938-46; Oakland Museum, 1938, 1942, 1950; Golden Gate International Exposition, 1939; Biltmore Salon, Los Angeles, 1941; Art Institute of Chicago, 1941-1946; National Academy of Design, 1942-1946; Corcoran Gallery of Art, 1941, 1943; Carnegie Institute, 1941, 1944; Metropolitan Museum of Art; Denver Museum; Frye Museum.
Works held: National Academy of Design, New York; California State Library; Santa Barbara Museum; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Boston Museum of Fine Art, Boston; Springfield Museum, Massachusetts; Washington State College; Dover High School, Denver, Colorado; San Diego Museum; Cranbrook Academy, Michigan; Mormon Church, Salt Lake City, Utah; Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach.
Sources: Artists in California: 1786-1940, Edan Hughes
Emil Kosa Jr., Gordon T. McClelland