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Otis Art Institute

In 1931, upon graduating from Manual Arts, Lehman won a citywide competition for a sculpture scholarship to Otis Art Institute. At Otis, he worked with Roger Noble Burnham and George Stanley (who created the original "Oscar"). At the end of that year, he won the Sculpture Award at the Otis Art Institute exhibit at the Los Angeles Museum for the Prophet Jeremiah.

During his years at Otis, Lehman was still primarily working as a sculptor. He used plaster and clay, as well as carving directly in stone.

He was offered free material from the Crystal Silica Sand Company to create sculpture.  Thinking this might be a good way to make extra money, he agreed. Unfortunately, the product was so poor that the sculptures fell apart.  Being an impoverished artist, he resorted to using the free pads of invoices they gave him as drawing paper. 

Nude on Invoice, Harold Lehman, 1932. Los Angeles, CA

Invoice pad from Crystal Silica Sand Company, Lehman used as drawing paper. 

After leaving Otis Art Institute, Lehman concentrated mainly on painting. In 1933, his first major work, The Landlady, won 2nd Award at the 14th Annual Exhibition of Painters and Sculptors at the Los Angeles Museum. 

A storm of controversy was created by The Landlady. The academic artists who were competing felt slighted by the jury for their choice of an expressionist piece. The Landlady was soon exhibited all over California and received much critical acclaim.

In a review of the exhibit in the Los Angeles Times dated 5/28/33, Arthur Millier talks about the controversy between the "younger" and "older" artists. He wrote:

Realism and organization, in a word, have replaced romance and idealism in every field. The older artist, feeling himself secure on top of the rock of a supposedly stable society, could let himself go romantically. The artist who is really of this age starts with the facts, and the most conspicuous facts today are not roses, but idle factories; not beautiful, sheltered damsels, but capable, informed young women who are wondering where they go from here; not contented old ladies with incomes, but hard-bitten, hard-working realistic old women like Mr. Lehman's "Landlady."

Harold Lehman, The Prophet Jeremiah. Original 1931. Los Angeles.

The Prophet. Original plaster cast. 1931

The Prophet Jeremiah. Bronze by Harold Lehman. 1931, Los Angeles, CA.

The Prophet. Bronze 1978

The Landlady, Harold Lehman. 1933.

The Landlady. Harold Lehman 1933

Related Links

  • History Archive. Otis College of Art & Design.

  • Conflict on Museum Art Held Deeper Than Seems. Arthur Millier, the Los Angeles Times. 5-28-1933.

  • Art War Breaks Out: Los Angeles Museum Becomes Battle Ground as Modernists and Opponents Clash: "Depression' and 'Landlady' Art to Some - but to Others - . Los Angeles Times. 5-26-1933.

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