Precisely Not: Works from the Stefan Hirsch and Elsa Rogo Collection
This exhibit examines a collection of papers, photographs, and artwork donated by Elsa Rogo to Bard College that have been recently processed and preserved. The collection, which ranges from personal notes, typewritten speeches, small doodles, sketches for murals, lithographs, postcards, and even a death mask, exposes the development of Hirsch’s style over the course of his teaching, creating, and thinking about art. In particular, this exhibit challenges the existing scholarship that labels Hirsch as precisionist artist, suggesting instead that he is “precisely not” such an artist as evidenced by the collection.
Stefan Hirsch was a professor of painting at Bard College beginning in 1942 until his retirement in 1960. He was born in 1899 in Germany, where he began studying art. In 1917, he immigrated to the United States. He would become an artist associated with the Precisionist movement in American art, which included artists such as Charles Sheeler, George Ault, Joseph Stella, and Charles Demuth, among others. Like many of this group from the 1920s and 1930s, Hirsch received acclaim for his clean, geometric, and mechanistic style then in vogue as a result of the successful rise of modernist art in the United States.
In 1930 in New York City, he married Elsa Rogo, an artist and noted photojournalist. Together, they spent an extended honeymoon in Mexico, visiting pre-Columbian sites and befriending artists like Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros, and Jose Clemente Orozco. Hirsch and Rogo travelled between the United States and Latin America for the remainder of Hirsch’s life. Hirsch continued painting and printmaking, while Rogo worked as a photojournalist and teacher. In the 1930s, he was involved in the New Deal Arts programs, and taught mural painting and art criticism at Bennington College and the Art Students League.
In 1942, Stefan Hirsch accepted a teaching appointment in painting at Bard College, where he led the Division of the Arts. Together with Rogo, he taught at Bard until his retirement in 1960. In 1961 he was granted the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters by Bard College. His first retrospective exhibition occurred in 1964 at Bard College, and another was organized at the Phillips Collection in 1977.
Curated by John Ohrenberger '16