John Nelson Battenberg was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1931. An artist named John Goray first influenced him when Battenberg was about 10 years old. Goray moved into Battenberg’s neighborhood in Kenosha, WI from Chicago, IL. Goray became his mentor, introduced him to classical music, books, and art, and encouraged him in painting.
After high school, John chose to study painting at the University of Wisconsin. The Korean War and a brief stint in the Marine Corps interrupted his studies. By 1953, he was back to continue his education, this time at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota. In 1955, he decided he wanted to use the remainder of his G.I. Bill in Europe. He found that the only government approved art school was the Ruskin School, Oxford University so he moved to England and remained at Oxford until 1957. John traveled extensively during that period and feels that his time abroad was a special time that helped to shape his views and philosophies.
In 1960, he received an MFA in painting from Michigan State University and returned to England to continue work as a painter. A few short years later, he became an artist-in-residence at Western New Mexico University in Silver City NM. It was in Silver City that John began experimenting with sculpture.
In 1963, John, his wife and son left New Mexico to head for the San Francisco Bay Area which became his home from that point on.
He did graduate work at California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland, CA. During the next two decades, he taught at San Jose State University, he lectured, and served as an artist-in-residence at colleges and universities worldwide. John became an innovator in establishing bronze casting on the West Coast of the United States in the late 1960s.
In the 1970s, John influenced not only the establishment of bronze casting in the United States but also many young aspiring artists. In the mid 1980s, John left San Jose State and academia to pursue his career in sculpture full-time.
Although he has experimented with a wide variety of sculpture, John is well known for his Pilot Series and his sculptures of North American Wildlife. Battenberg was fascinated by the concept and art of flight from a very young age. The pilots John created in the late 60s and early 70s were making more of a statement against war. These pilots, done in aluminum and bronze, are bodiless, nameless forgotten. Pieces of their uniforms are ripped and or torn symbolizing perhaps both the physical and mental torture and futility of war. His recent pilots although still bodiless are more of a tribute to pioneer aviators. They seem to capture the spirits of the young men and women who fought, flew and sometimes died developing flight, which John considers mankind’s greatest achievement.
When John decided to pursue his sculpture career full-time he started working on a new type of sculpture, which he has described as three-dimensional drawing. This type of sculpture took the form of various North American Wildlife. From wolves to bears, ravens and hawks, John has successfully captured the quintessence souls of these animals. There are many of these sculptures gracing universities, museums, public areas, private homes and business parks of North America and Europe today.
In 1999, John completed a two-year project and what he considers his most monumental work, The Procession. Commissioned for a private residence, it consists of four bronze panels mounted on cast aluminum gates. The gates are each eight feet tall by seven feet wide and weigh approximately three tons. The total opening is fourteen feet. The panels are mounted on the inside of the gates and can only be viewed by the public when the gates are swung open. There are two panels on each gate: The Procession of the Men on one side and The Procession of the Women on the other. They show the two groups marching to the center of the gates. Thirty-one human characters compose the total Procession and are real people from Battenberg’s life. The panels also include classical fantasies: Pegasus, Satyrs, Unicorns, Winged Women, etc. The upper panels depict a flock of doves escaping two hawks coming out of the hinge end of the panels. The lower panels depict two Cougars and two Coyotes chasing and finally eating the doves. There are two pigeons escaping freely from the bottom panels. The entire work is Johns tribute to his interest in Classicism.
John currently lives happily with his wife Lynn, in Scottsdale, Arizona. He was honored with a distinguished alumni award from St. Cloud State University in October of 2000, receiving their Fine Arts and Humanities Leadership Award. John continues to create pilots and wildlife with as much, if not more, passion as when he first started sculpting forty years ago.
1949 University of Wisconsin
1954 Bachelor of Science, Minnesota State University, St. Cloud, MN
1955-57 Ruskin School, Oxford University, England
1960 Master of Fine Arts, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI
1963-64 Master of Fine Arts, California College of Arts and Crafts, Oakland CA
2000 Lukes Last Flight, Green Valley Technical Plaza, Fairfield, CA
Phoenix Warrior, Green Valley Technical Plaza, Fairfield, CA
Puma, Wolf, Bear, and Coyote, Parkway Corporate Plaza, Roseville, CA
1999 The Procession - Monumental Bronze Gates, Phoenix, AZ
1997 Wolf Trio, University of Phoenix, Phoenix, AZ
Spirit of Ruth, Phoenix Zoo, Phoenix, AZ
Arizona Wolf Pack, The Apollo Group, Phoenix, AZ
1995 Totem Spirit Structure, Pacific Graduate School of Psychology, Palo Alto, CA
Stevie, Sacramento Zoo, Sacramento, CA
1994 Parma Park Project, Community Arts Council, San Jose, CA
1993 Prairie Wolf, South Area Sheriff Substation, Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission, Sacramento, CA
1992 Mystical Bear, Millbrae (CA) CalTrain Station, California Arts Council, Sacramento, CA
1991 Creatures of Nevada, Truckee River Walk,
Reno Redevelopment Agency, Reno, NV
Howl, Russ, MTS, Inc., West Sacramento, CA
1989 Murphy Street Scene, Murphy Street Project, Sunnyvale, CA
Morning At Eden Landing, Koll Industrial Park, Hayward, CA
1986 Flying Lady, Park Center Plaza, San Jose, CA
1980 Flying Pilots, BFW, Inc., San Jose, CA
Selected Solo Exhibitions
1998 New School for the Arts, Phoenix, AZ
1997 Joseph Chowning Gallery, San Francisco, CA
1996 Solomon Dubnick Gallery, Sacramento, CA
1995 Fresno Art Museum, Fresno, CA
1994 Harcourt’s Modern and Contemporary Art, San Francisco, CA
Academy of Art, San Francisco, CA
1992 Nevada Museum of Art, Reno, NV
1991 Triton Museum of Art, Santa Clara, CA
1985 Joseph Chowning Gallery, San Francisco, CA
1979 University Art Gallery, California State University, Dominguez Hills, CA
1978 San Jose Museum of Art, San Jose, CA
1975 Oscar Krasner Gallery, Inc., New York, NY
Berkeley Art Center, Berkeley, CA
1961 Temple Gallery, Knightsbridge, London, England
Selected Group Exhibitions
1999 Pierwalk 99, Navy Pier, Chicago, IL
1997 The 'Old' New Garde, JJ Brookings Gallery, San Francisco, CA
1996 CCAC Alumni Exhibition, CCAC, Oakland, CA
1994 Fifty Years: A Syntex Retrospective, Syntex Corporation, Palo Alto, CA
1992 Triton Museum of Art, Santa Clara, CA
1986 North Dakota Museum of Art, Grand Forks, ND
The Pompidou, Paris, France
1985 Gallerie Birch, Copenhagen, Denmark
Artist and Antigone, Pietrasanta, Italy
1983 Museo deo Bozzetti, Citta di Pietrasanta, Pietrasanta, Italy
1982 De Saisset Museum, University of Santa Clara, Santa Clara, CA
1975 Berkeley Art Center, Berkeley, CA
1974 Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA
1972 Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA
1970 Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indianapolis, IN
1969 Smithsonian Institute, International Collection of Fine Arts, Washington, DC
Musee d'Art at d'Histoire, Geneva, Switzerland
Museum des 20, Jahrhunderts, Vienna, Austria
1965 Edge of Pop, Western Association of Art Museums, traveling exhibition, U.S.
1963 New Mexico Museum of Fine Arts, Albuquerque, NM
Teaching / Art-Related Activities
1995 Artist in Residence, Fresno Art Museum, Fresno, CA
1994 Visiting Artist, Fresno Art Museum, Fresno, CA
1989 Visiting Artist, Stanislaus State University, Turlock, CA
Visiting Artist, California State University, Chico, CA
1988 Exchange Artist, Moscow, Leningrad, Lithuania, USSR
1987-88 Artist in Residence, Lakeside Studios, Lakeside, MI
1986 Sculptor in Residence, Pietrasanta, Italy
1983 American Academy in Rome, Rome, Italy
1980 Sculptor in Residence, University of Hawaii, Manoa, Honolulu, HI
1966-85 Professor of Art, San Jose State University, San Jose, CA
1964-65 Sculpture Instructor, Contra Costa College, San Pablo, CA
1964 Casting Instructor, California College of Arts and Crafts, Oakland, CA
1962-63 Artist in Residence/Director, McCray Gallery, New Mexico Western University, Silver City, NM
1962 Art Instructor, New Mexico Western University, Silver City, NM
Lee Weimers, Battenberg: Treasuring the Artistic Attitude,
The San Jose Mercury News, June 1995
Ken Robison, Cat Tale: Art that explores myth of animals, The Fresno Bee,
John Marlowe, John Battenberg: Indigenous Ghosts, Southwest Art, May, 1994
In the Galleries, Art-Talk, June-July, 1994
Recent Works by John Battenberg: Animal Spirits Take Flight,
Academy of Art College Newsletter, March 14, 1994
Wild Things -- Where Wild Things Are, Art week, June 3, 1993
Leslie Vestrich, Imposing Figures, Los Gatos Weekly Times, February 3, 1993
Holly Johnson, Sculptor casts life into animal figures, Sacramento Bee,
August 23, 1992
Sculpture site adds new dimension to state fair, Sacramento Bee, August 20, 1993
Kim Schneiderman, Sculptor preserves Millbrae's 'bear essentials,
Millbrae Sun, November 4, 1992
Sandra Macias, Wild Thing, Reno Gazette-Journal, April 26, 1992
Laura Tuchman, John Battenberg: Maximum Effect with Minimal Means,
Art of California, May, 1992
Sculpture Walk, Southwest Art, April, 1992
Marcia Tanner, Getting Over Gallery Phobia, San Francisco Chronicle,
April 15, 1992
Victoria Dalkey, West's Oldest Art Club Turns 100, Sacramento Bee (Encore),
February 9, 1992
Tying It All Together, Northern California Home and Garden, November, 1991
Anne Stein, From Out of Quake Rubble A Garden Wall, San Jose Mercury News, October 12, 1991
Sandra Macias, Downtown Sculpture, Reno Gazette-Journal, October 6, 1991
Tony Marek, The Works of John Battenberg, San Jose Spartan Daily, October 4, 1991
Dorothy Burkhart, Eye Openers, San Jose Mercury News, September 20, 1991
Laura J. Tuchman, The Bronze Age, San Jose Mercury News, September 15, 1991
Shirley Anderson, Sketches with Wolves, Peninsula Magazine, September, 1991
Putting It All Together: John Battenberg, Triton Museum of Art Members Bulletin, September-October, 1991
Battenberg At the River Walk, Encore, Reno, NV, October, 1991
Fran Harvey, Work of Nationally Recognized Artist Displayed, Reno Gazette, July 27, 1991
Dorothy Burkhart, A Bronze Bestiary in Walnut Creek, San Jose Mercury News, May 3, 1991
Carol Fowler, Battenberg Art at the Bedford, Contra Costa Times, May 11, 1991
Kenneth Baker, Sculptor Tamed and Untamed, San Francisco Chronicle, May 16, 1991
City Scene, Walnut Creek, CA, Spring, 1991
A Look At an Artist, Diablo, June 1991
Chiori Santiago, Vision in Flight, Regional Center for the Arts Magazine, April-August, 1991
Suz Rubinson, Community Arts Council To Present Statue Mock-Up To the Almaden Community, Almaden Times, November, 1990
Robert Klindt, Almaden Valley Arts Group Wants Stature with Statue, San Jose Mercury News, August 9, 1989
Nora Zamichow, Sunnyvale's Public Art Plan Refined, San Jose Mercury News, August 16, 1989
Robin Worthington, Art Honors Dockworkers, San Jose Mercury News, August 9, 1989
Mike de Give, Sunnyvale's Newest Work of Art, Times Tribune, July 14, 1989
Dorothy Burkhart, Clothes Tailored into Fresh, San Jose Mercury News, February 3, 1989
Alexandra Wise, Diplomacy of Art, Peninsula Magazine (San Jose Holiday Issue), 1988
John Marlowe, Power, Politics and Publicity, But Is It Art? San Francisco Magazine, May 1988
Dorothy Burkhart, Sculptors' Inspiration Comes from Life, Death, San Jose Mercury News, June 6, 1986
Thomas Albright, Art in the San Francisco Bay Area, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985
Georgianna M. Lagoria, Northern California Art of the Sixties, Santa Clara: De Saisset Museum, 1982
Suzanne Muchnic, The Look of a Troubled Alliance, Los Angeles Times, October 16, 1979
Tom Pakusich, A Risqué Display? South Bay Daily Breeze, October 5, 1979
Arthur Bloomfield, Sculptor Fleshes Out Bronzes, San Francisco Examiner, February 9, 1978
Arty Look for the Fashion Plaza, San Jose News, February 8, 1978
J.H Weeks, Artists Give Final Salute to Things Historical, San Jose News, January 27, 1978
Gay Weaver, The World Seen through a Sculptor's Eyes, Palo Alto Times, October 8, 1976
Jan Butterfield, John Battenberg, Currant, San Francisco, August-October, 1976
Los Angeles Times, September 24, 1976
Gail Tagashira, He Makes 'War,' Not Love, San Jose News, September 21, 1976
Comic Strip Art and Angry Sculptures, Palo Alto Times, September 17, 1976
Paper Art Displayed, Wisconsin State Journal, December 26, 1975
Gallery of Greater Victoria Bulletin, September 18, 1974
Contemporary American Painting and Sculpture, Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1974
Mollie O'Neill, A Sky to Fly, Artweek, September 22, 1973
Thomas Albright, 'Fly-Sky' Art in Group Show, San Francisco Chronicle, September 8, 1973
Gay M. Weaver, Sculpture Show One of Finest Ever Held at Palo Alto Center, Palo Alto Times, January 19, 1973
John Canaday, Art: Harlem, Peggy and the Mongols, New York Times, 1972
Totality of Art, Artweek, January 8, 1972
Jim Marshall, Cloaked in Smog: Foundry Art at HSC, Eureka Times Standard, July 20, 1970
John Gardner, Art through the Ages, 5th Edition, New York: Harcourt and Brace, 1970
L'art Americain a Geneve Richesse Creatice et Eclatement des Tendances, Feuille D'Avis De Lausanne, July 25, 1970
La Nerva Figurazione Americana in una Mostra a Milano, Le Arti, February, 1970
Lo Spirito de Recerca Degli Artisti Americani, Gazetta di Parma, February, 1970
Le Protesta Erotica dei Pop Americani, Panorama, No. 200, February, 1970
Hanno Esposto Anche l Pantaloni, Gente, No. 7, February 16, 1970
Il Ritorno della Figura Umana Nell, Arte della Giovane America, Giornale de Brescia, February 15, 1970
Sculpture for the Campus, Fresno State College, Fresno, CA, 1969
L'Art Figurativa Americana dol 1945 ad Aggi, La Praelpina, February 11, 1970
Hanno Fissato in Calco le Cronache dell, Orrido, Il Giorno, February 3, 1970
L'Art Figurativa Americana der 1945 ad Aggi, Il Giornale di Pavia, January 31, 1970
Neoerotismo Americane, Corriere della Serra, January 29, 1970
Avanguardisti di Giorgio Mascherpa, Avvenire, January 27, 1970
Zweierlei Lustgewinn, Wechenpresse, December 10, 1969
Altes und Neves, Bunt Gemischt, Neve Figuration USA im Museum des 20 Jahrdundants, December 6, 1969
Kunst - Eder Was?, Velksstimme, December 5, 1969
Terugkeer Van Het Beeld in de Amerikannse Kunst, De Nieueve Gids, October 25-26, 1969
La Nouvelle Figuration Americaine, Tribune de Geneve, August 6, 1969
Selections from the Collection of the University of Illinois Arts Club, Chicago Art Institute, 1969
John Weller, 14th Biennial Exhibit of Contemporary American Painting and Sculpture, University of Illinois, Champaign, IL, 1968
Bill Hannan, Parts for Art's Sake, August, 1968
Vaughn Meisling, Noted California Artists Show Here, Times-Standard, March 10, 1968
Sun Telegram, Battenberg Sculpture Exhibit at Orange Show until Nov. 26,
November 12, 1967
Allen S. Weller, Contemporary American Painting and Sculpture 1967,
University of Illinois Press, Urbana, 1967
Sun Telegram, BPW to Co-Sponsor Sculpture Exhibit, October 29, 1967
Inya Register, Reception to Honor John Battenberg to Be Held Friday at High School, Bishop, CA, October 12, 1967
Sunday Times-Herald, Aviators are Saluted, November 28, 1965
Alfred Frankenstein, Romance and Irony in 'The Heroes' Series, San Francisco Chronicle, November 25, 1965
Arthur Bloomfield, 'Dawn Patrol Flies Again, 1965
William Wilson, Ramos Art Mirrors Transience
Biography from Triton Museum of Art:
Born in Wisconsin in 1931, John Battenberg has resided professionally as an artist in both Italy and England for five years. He was a professor of sculpture at San Jose University and holds the title of professor emeritus. He left his professorship to pursue his sculpture full-time.
What may be surprising to collectors of John Battenberg’s sculpture is the knowledge that John began his successful career as a painter. In this manner, John painted and continues to paint every manner of subject – always with one unifying fascination – the expressiveness of the paintings surface; the toothy texture of the canvas’ weave and the excited and bold application of brushwork in which he requires of himself to express the essence of his subject. A landmark artist, Battenberg’s approach to painting is analogous to the minimalist and intellectualization of his sculptural work; described as drawing in the third dimension. As a renaissance man, and an academic, Battenberg continues to be inspired by the study of color harmony developed by the impressionists and fauvists of the 19th century. Battenberg believes that less is more and simplicity and surface quality are predicated by rich observation and a deepened understanding of his subjects. Whether an oil painter or sculptor, Battenberg looks for and selectively assembles the attitude and essence of his subjects.
After 40 years of accomplishment as a sculptor; where Museum exhibits, major corporate and private commissions, and some of the most prestigious art galleries in the country brought him winning success, John injured his knee, which curtailed his ability maneuver the large scale sculptures he was so well know for. At this time John took a pause from the heavy labor needed to produce sculpture and returned to his roots as a painter and printmaker.
The Koi Series is John’s latest effort where both paintings and monotype are utilized to portray the illusive Koi subject. John explores the environs of the dynamic, colored and patterned Koi, expressed from a keenly poignant perspective; it is here, in the waters’ depth that the sunlight illuminates the silky forms of the brightly colored creature’s body — leading us comfortingly through a mysterious landscape. The path our eye follows in these canvasses reflects the way that the familiar past leaves its presence, in our sub consciousness. Perhaps sparked by a deep-routed desire to connect with a time of wonder, innocence, and simplicity, we take great pleasure in traveling along these visual routes.
Prior to the Koi Series John diverted between painting and sculpting wolfs and other inhabitants of the wild. John painted these untamed inhabitants striving to portray their startling psychological nature in a gritty and expressive manner. This Museum overview exhibit is documented by this catalog, which presents a recent foray into the world of the creatures that are found at John’s Arizona home. Although The Koi Series is a decisive focus for Battenberg, this exhibit culminated from his Arizona years, would be incomplete without inclusion of the wild bronze critters from the desert Southwest.
John Russell Taylor, famed Art Editor of the London Times, had this to say about John’s sculptural work...
The spaces between the lines in Battenberg’s animal sculptures serve a function. These creatures are in a general rather than an anatomical sense skeletal, their physical form outlined in bold strokes — not for nothing does Battenberg call them drawings in three dimensions. But they are vibrant with life; there is no sense here of a hollow shell vacated by the spirit. On the contrary, Battenberg seems to have deserted the literal, in order to create a larger reality. Most animal sculptures which aim at detailed, literal, hair-by-hair or feather-by-feather depiction end by evoking the taxidermist’s workshop. Battenberg is after a more elusive game. He seeks to capture the bear or wolf or the eagle for us in all its untrammeled freedom.
Born in Wisconsin in 1931, John did his undergraduate work, in art, at various midwestern universities. He also attended the Ruskin School at Oxford University for two years and received MFA degrees from both Michigan State University and The California School of Arts and Crafts. John was a Professor of Sculpture at San Jose University and now holds the title of Professor Emeritus from this university. However, he left an academic career to pursue sculpture full time.
Battenberg’s early artistic journey was all about oil painting, printmaking, and drawing and the early years in England and Europe involved these disciplines. When he returned the last time from living abroad, the first job in art was artist-in-residence at New Mexico Western University, located in a town with a population of approximately 2000.
It was time to move on. To continue the artistic journey. To say goodbye to New Mexico. California’s Bay area beckoned. During those years, there was a burgeoning movement on the West Coast. There was a guy named Peter Voulkos, large warehouses, home foundries, lots of artists, and galleries. The seeds were sown, the foundry was built, sculpture was made, shows were had, and they were rocking and rolling. There were all manner of sculptors at that time in many mediums and approaches. It could only be described as sculpture heaven.
Commenting on his artistic journey, John has this to say. One can look at my bio, and see that I am fortunate to have had a first-class education and a long list of colleagues and acquaintances that have crossed my path, and me theirs. I was also fortunate enough to lock in and gain a solid creative direction in my early thirties, when I started experimental sculpture using foundry techniques. I have catalogues and critiques.
My pursuits were the symbols and thoughts of the lost dreams of America. I do think the message was heard.
Currently residing in Scottsdale, the artist lived and worked professionally in both Italy and England for a period of ten years. John has completed many large public, and private, commissions spanning the United States and Europe and his work can be found in museums, galleries, and universities throughout the world.