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Lobdell, Frank

Frank Lobdell Photo

Frank Lobdell

Jose Mercado / Stanford News Service
Art & Art History
Oral History Project: 
Arts at Stanford
Humburg, Judith
Interview Year: 
Oral History Type: 

Frank Lobdell first came to Stanford in 1965 as an Artist in Residence.  Nate Oliveira seriously lobbied Dr. Eitner, then Chair of the Art and Architecture Department, to invite Lobdell to join the studio art faculty and, in 1966 he became a tenured associate professor at Stanford.  Lobdell talks about the lure of being able to help build and define the studio art program along with Oliveira and Keith Boyle and their shared studio space on Hamilton Avenue in Palo Alto.  In 1989, he was appointed the Paul L and Phyllis Wattis Professor of Art and retired from that position in 1991.

While Lobdell admits the kind of painting he most values, as a creative expression of the artist, ‘cannot be taught’, he also describes a successful technique of inviting students to his studio to watch him start a new canvas  He shares that studying the paintings of masters is a valued technique to discover the process of making art and recounts a seminal moment in his own art education when he traveled to Chicago with fellow art students and spent a full day lying on the floor of the museum studying Pablo Picasso’s painting Guernica and its many preparatory studies, including especially The Wounded Horse and The Weeping Woman

In this interview, Prof. Emeritus Lobdell reveals a life-long passion and commitment to the making of art, fueled by his insatiable curiosity of what it means to be human across time and cultures.  He describes his almost ritual explorations of the art books and slides in the libraries of his fellow art and art history faculty, drawn to understand the imagery of past generations and peoples.  Frank admits that he might have chosen archeology as a profession had he not discovered art early in his high school studies. 

Lobdell talks about his personal approach to the process of making art and creative inspiration throughout the interview, describing how he would select certain students who were more exploratory and bolder in their ways of using raw materials and give them studio space to act as examples for his other art students.  Weekly drawing sessions from a live model with fellow artists Oliveira and Boyle that were often photographed by Leo Holub (a lecturer in photography) have always been a key factor in Lobdell’s art practice.  These sessions in the Hamilton Avenue studio were an extension of the regular drawing practice he had established with fellow art institute faculty Elmer Bischoff, David Park and Richard Diebenkorn earlier in his career.

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