Frederick Spratt was active/lived in California, Iowa / England. Frederick Spratt is known for monochromatic geometric acrylic painting, abstraction
Size: 71.00″ x 348.75″
(180.34cm x 885.83cm)
Created: 1974 – 2004
Medium: tooled aluminum panels (9) and Coricone
Frederick Spratt (American, 1927 – 2008) was a painter active in Los Angeles and San Jose, California, affiliated with the Light and Space Movement. In 1927, Spratt was born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where his exposure to painting began as a young child, due to a close relationship with his grandfather—a house painter by profession. By the time Spratt reached adolescence, he had learned the sign painting trade and, consequently, developed an affinity for painting on flat metal surfaces.
Spratt studied at Iowa Wesleyan College, Mount Pleasant, where he received a B.A. degree in 1951, and at The University of Iowa, Iowa City where he received a M.A. degree in 1956. Later that year, he moved to Dallas, where he undertook a painting course at the Dallas Museum of Art. After his formal painting studies in Texas, Spratt took a teaching position in the art department of San Jose State University, later becoming Chairman of the department in 1967 and Professor of Art Emeritus in 1989.
In 1962 Spratt took a one-year sabbatical from SJSU and moved his family to the town St. Ives in Cornwall, England, where he would set up a studio and painted for the next year. The paintings Spratt created during his time in the artistic community of St. Ives include abstracted landscapes and figures, defined by their subdued color palettes and loose brushwork. Spratt returned to SJSU in 1963 and established a second studio in the Inglewood area of Los Angeles by 1970, commuting via jet to San Jose three days a week to teach classes.
The late 1960’s and 1970’s designate an important period for the artist, for it is was during this time that Spratt developed his iconic color theory paintings. Spratt’s color theory diptychs are made of flat rectangular panels of two different monochrome colors, to which the artist applied over a hundred layers of acrylic paint to each aluminum panel, resulting in a pristine finish that connects his work to Southern California’s Light and Space Movement, also known as the Finish Fetish Movement. At the root of Spratt’s paintings is the focus on perceptual phenomena particularly that of color, as it changes with the amount of light from hour to hour, and season to season. Another important stylistic aspect of these paintings is the lack of volume, as the artist believed that flatness allowed the viewer to focus entirely on the phenomenon of color.
Critics and institutions quickly took notice to Spratt’s color theory paintings, with reviews in Art in America by Peter Selz and Peter Plagens in 1968 and 1978, respectively and exhibitions at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (1967), San Francisco Art Institute (1967, 1966, 1965, and 1961), the Legion of Honor of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (1968) and Janus Gallery in Los Angeles (1978), to highlight only a few.
From February 16, 2008 to July 6, 2008, Frederick Spratt was given a retrospective at San Jose Museum of Art (San Jose, CA) and, most recently, was included in a group show entitled “Local Color” at the museum from July 26, 2012 through January 13, 2013. Spratt’s work is in the permanent collection of San Jose Museum of Art and the Triton Museum (Santa Clara, CA).
Written and submitted by Anna Hygelund, researcher and fine art specialist based in San Francisco, CA
Notes on the Contributor: Anna Hygelund completed her graduate studies in Post-War Contemporary Art at Sotheby’s Institute of Art in London
Peter Selz, West Coast Report: Plastics into Art (New York: Art in America, May-June 1968) 114.
Peter Plagens, “Unslick in L.A”. (New York: Art in America, 1978) 85.
Frederick Spratt, “Trooping the Colors” (Santa Clara: Triton Museum of Art, 2004) 8.
Frederick Spratt, Message to Shahn Spratt (artist’s son). 08 July 2011. Email.