William S. Schwartz
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As a man and as an artist, William S. Schwartz lived in uneasy relation to the tumultuous and shifting contexts of time and place within which he lived. Some aspects of his life story seem paradigmatic of the stereotypical understanding of his generation: on the shallowest level, he was an early twentieth century immigrant who found success in America and came to embrace its values and way of life as his own. As soon as one digs deeper, however, the frictions and schisms of his identity which make his story much more meaningfully illustrative of the era through which he passed become apparent. He was the product of a downtrodden blue-collar city who eschewed all leftist sympathies for a love of the classic virtues of Middle America. He was a flamboyantly foreign member of society and yet dabbled with an artistic movement with xenophobic undertones. He was a Jew who oscillated wildly between exploring the complexities of his cultural background in his work and denying the influence of that background altogether. He was often a defiant rebel to prevailing artistic moods and simultaneously a happy-go-lucky socialite. And, perhaps the tension most illuminating of American life in general, he was an exuberant and gifted self-promoter and yet ultimately wound up producing his most brilliant and moving work from an obscurity for which he was largely responsible.