Born in Lublin, Russian Poland, Josef Presser came to Boston at the age of 12 where he received a scholarship to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. His teacher, Philip L. Hale,said: “I have a genius in my class and I don’t know what to say to him.” After study in Europe, Presser returned to the US and settled in Philadelphia, producing “American Scene” paintings, many of them circus performers. Indeed, all through his life, his work expressed his empathy with the working man and the down-trodden. Later he moved to NYC and then Woodstock.
Presser was a manic depressive and the inherent symptoms of the cycle, extreme highs and lows, seemed to enhance the richness, variety and depth of his work. In the 40s and 50s, Presser met and worked with the luminaries of Abstract Expressionism—De Kooning, Rothko an Pollock. Yet, his work never moved completely to abstraction.
His work is held by the Louvre, the Whitney, the Met, Boston Museum of Fine Arts, among others.