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Harold Lehman OBIT
October 2, 1913-April 2, 2006
Contact: Lisa Lehman Trager – 201-722-8941 or 201-819-5125

New York Artist worked with Pollock and Siqueiros

Harold Lehman, an award winning painter, muralist and sculptor, and co-founder of the only indigenous American school of surrealism, died at his New Jersey home this past Sunday following a short illness. He was 92.

Lehman's work as an American artist encompassed seven decades. Although born and raised in New York City, his journey as a professional artist began in the 1930s in Los Angeles. In California, he received several major awards for his work including a second prize in the prestigious14 th Annual Los Angles County exhibition in 1933.

Along with Phil Guston, Reuben Kadish, Helen Lundeberg and Lorser Fietelson, Lehman was a founding member of the Post-Surrealists, an avant-garde group of California artists active in Los Angeles in the 1930s and 40s. One of his most renowned works from that period, Portrait of A Dancerwith a Sculptor , recently appeared in the National Academy of Design'smajor 2005 exhibition on American surrealism as well as the 2002 Post-Surrealist exhibition at the Pasadena Museum of California Art.

Also in Los Angeles, he worked with the great Mexican muralist D.A. Siqueiros on several murals. He maintained close ties with the artist and later invited Siqueiros to New York for an “experimental workshop” attended by the cream of American artists including Jackson Pollock.

Active as a muralist for the WPA in Los Angeles and New York, Lehman completed several major murals. Lehman designed Man's Daily Bread, a massive (20'x70') mural for the cafeteria of Riker's Island Penitentiary in New York City. As he noted about the subject matter,

"It seemed to me that a theme that had some connection with not only the handling of food, but the idea of earning one's bread by one's own sweat so to speak, would have some good constructive connection with that prison without being an obvious lecture."

Several details from Man's Daily Bread were shown from 1938-40 in various venues including the National Society of Mural Painters and the Whitney Museum. The mural was widely covered in the press. He also completed murals for the post office in Renovo, Pennsylvania and for the American Art Today building at the 1939-40 World's Fair. One of these panels, The Driller, was later acquired by the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Active in New York throughout his life, Lehman also was hired by the Canadian government as a consultant on the 1967 World’s Fair in Montreal.

Lehman's art was constantly evolving. He never stayed with one approach, medium, or technique in creating paintings, sculpture, and drawings. Towards the end of his life he created computer art, which can be seen on his website . His daughter, Lisa Lehman Trager, produced the site as an homage, virtual gallery and biography of her father’s life.

His personal association with, D.A. Siqueiros and Jackson Pollock, and his participation in the Federal Art Project made Mr. Lehman a valuable source of first hand information to authors, museums, and scholars. Lehman is a past member of the National Society of Mural Painters, The Woodstock Artists Association, The United American Artists, as well as the United Scenic Artists. In addition to the Smithsonian American Art Museum, his work can be found in the National Gallery of Art; the Wolfsonian Foundation in Miami Beach, Florida; and in many private collections.

His wife Leona, son Harold Lee, daughter Lisa and her husband Lanny and their two children, Lee and Lauren, survives him. In lieu of gifts, the family suggests a donation to the Leonia Public Library, located in his hometown of Leonia, NJ.

Services for Harold Lehman will held at Frank A. Patti Funeral Home, 327 Main Street Fort Lee, NJ. (201) 944-0100 on Thursday, April 6 from 4-6 pm.

Further Obits can be found by visiting:

The Record
North Jersey Media Group
The L.A. Times
Now available on the website
Memories of My Dad,
Daughter, Lisa Lehman Trager's personal statement about her father (PDF)

Memories of Grandpa by grandson, Lee Trager (PDF)