Portraiture ·

The Italian Hat

The Italian Hat

History

Katherine posed for this painting shortly after Lack returned from Europe and before they were married. She’s wearing the hat he purchased for her as a gift from his time in Italy.

Katherine (Vietorisz Kaitalin) Lack was born in Budapest, Hungary in 1930. Her early childhood was spent in Diosgyor-Vasgyar, a small settlement around iron and steel refineries and iron mines, where her father worked as an engineer and metallurgist. They moved to Budapest in 1940 where she finished 8th grade (4th gymnasium) before the events of WWII made it imperative that they leave the country.

The family lived in Vienna for a short time, acting as liaison between Hungary and the already numerous evacuees, until the Soviets reached Schwechat, a small town 12 kilometers from the city. During their last night in Vienna they could hear the gunfire from the East as they packed up their belongings, and the next morning left Vienna, mother and four girls. Their father was traveling, trying to find accommodations for more people and machinery leaving Hungary.

The family ended up in Liezen, in the Steirermark, where they spent the next four years, studying languages and surviving in one room, no bathroom, no hot water, one hot plate, no groceries to buy, living on the meager rations the refugees were given, supplementing their diet with berries and mushrooms picked in the surrounding woods.

Katherine, with the help of Austrian friends, attended an art and fashion school in Vienna, where she became proficient in drawing, tailoring, graphic arts, specializing in jewelry making and enamel work. (Here she was also exposed to opera, classical music and theater, a rich culture flourishing again in postwar Vienna.)

The family immigrated to the USA in 1950, finding an old friend and sponsor in Pittsburgh, PA. Here Katherine found employment working with and designing jewelry, and later, in the advertising department of a small manufacturing company. She took three months off to go on vacation to Provincetown, MA. Here she met Richard Lack, who was studying with R. H. Ives Gammell in Boston.

Katherine and Richard soon became a couple, and in 1954 she moved to Boston where she worked as an artist and designer for a small mail order firm. They were married in 1955, and moved to Minneapolis. In 1958 they purchased a basement home in Glen Lake, east of the Twin Cites, and here Richard built his studio in 1959 with the assistance of several friends.

Katherine worked as a freelance commercial artist for many years, also contributing her skills to several non-profit organizations, (among them the Minnesota Opera, the Minnesota Orchestra, the Minnesota Jung Association, and the Minnetonka Symphony, where Richard played second violin for ten years.) At home she made almost all of the clothes for herself and the children, ran a mail order Hungarian Christmas card business, and created her own enamel jewelry, (displaying and selling them at several art fairs). She made most of the costumes for Richard’s imaginative paintings and helped make many of the frames for his work.

In the 1980s she helped run Atelier Lack, keeping the books and organizing several fund-raisers. Often she acted as hostess for the many clients and portrait sitters who came to the studio. In later years she also organized several studio sales for Richard’s work. Today, Katherine maintains an active lifestyle and continues to live independently in the home she and Richard shared for over fifty-years.1

Exhibitions

  • “Jordan Marsh Show”, Boston, MA, 1956, Second Place award. Ogunquilt Art Center, Ogunquilt, ME, 1956
  • “The Pupils of R. H. Ives Gammell: An Exhibition of Paintings”, Maryhill Museum of Fine Arts, Goldendale, WA, 1958
  • “Beauty: A Rebirth of Relevance”, The Newington-Cropsey Foundation Gallery of Art, Hastings-on-Hudson, NY, 1996

Awards

  • First Prize, 1956, Jordan Marsh Show, Boston, MA
  • Most Popular Prize, 1956, Ogunquilt Art Center, Ogunquilt, ME

Literature

  • The Pupils of R. H. Ives Gammell, An Exhibition of Paintings, exhibition catalog, Maryhill Museum of Fine Arts, Goldendale, WA, 1958, pp. 1-12, repr. p. 6
  • Classical Realism Quarterly, Vol. IV, Iss. 1, Winter, Atelier Lack, 1989, Kurt Anderson, An Interview with Richard Lack, pp.12-13, repr. p. 13
  • The Portrait Signature, Winter, 1999, The American Society of Portrait Artists, Stephen Gjertson, An Interview with Richard Lack: Portrait Painting in the Boston Tradition, pp. 6-13, repr. p. 8
  • Richard Lack: An American Master, 2002, Stephen Gjertson, The American Society of Classical Realism, Minneapolis, MN, ISBN 0-9636180-3-2, repr. p. 16

Footnote

1 Katherine Lack biography, September 13, 2012