New Orleans native Fritz Bultman (1919–1985) became interested in art while still in grammar school. In his high school years, Bultman attended the New Orleans Arts and Crafts School and came into contact with prominent local artists including Will Henry Stevens, Paul Ninas, and others who were working in the city at the time.
After traveling to Germany in 1935 with the intent of enrolling in the Bauhaus School, only to find it closed, Bultman returned to America to study at the “new” Bauhaus in Chicago. There, he was able to learn under the guidance of legendary artist Hans Hoffman for two years. Hoffman and others were at that time moving toward a new style of American art: Abstract Expressionism. This new form of art was characterized by varying degrees of artistic abstraction and, most notably, by the shared emotional sentiment of the artists, who had lived through the horrors of World War II and whose parents suffered through the first World War and Great Depression. Artists in this group each found their own style by exploring their emotions, conveying them abstractly.
In 1950, protesting the bias of jurors against the new Abstract Expressionist style, Fritz Bultman and twenty-seven others signed a letter to boycott the 1950 exhibition American Painting Today at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. The “Irascibles,” as the artists were called, protested the conservative nature of the selection process for the show in a letter published by The New York Times. When the “Irascibles” were pictured in Life magazine in 1950, Bultman missed the photography session because he was in Italy studying bronze casting techniques. The artist, recognized by his peers for his exceeding talent, received less credit than his fellow Irascibles Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, and his mentor, Hans Hoffman.
Fritz Bultman, Untitled (Still Life), 1939. Oil on canvas 30 x 24 inches. Purchased through the Alma Lee, Norman and Cary Saurage Fund of the Baton Rouge Area Foundation in honor of Alma Lee and H.N. Saurage Jr. Louisiana Art & Science Museum Collection, 2006.001.001
Bultman was in Italy studying the lost wax technique of bronze casting when he missed the infamous “Irascible” photograph and the fame that would follow. Ivan Meštrović and Frank Hayden, whose works are held in LASM’s collection, also practiced this ancient bronze casting technique.