Karl Mattern

Karl Mattern was born in Durkheim, Germany, on March 22, 1892. He studied at the Gymnasium in Germany, receiving art instruction there. During his time in the Gymnasium, he also developed life-long interests in history, languages, music and literature. After his father’s death, Mattern left Germany and traveled to New York where he spent two years doing odd jobs. He then traveled to Kansas to be with family friends.

From Kansas, he moved to Denver where he was able to study painting for the first time. After a few years, he moved yet again, to Chicago, where he enrolled at the Chicago Art Institute. There he learned the techniques of drawing, painting and illustration taught in part by the artist George Bellows. Mattern taught classes from 1922-1923 at the Chicago Academy of Art.

The artist Albert Bloch, a painter who was associated with the Bauhaus group in Weimar and Dessau, invited Mattern to teach at the University of Kansas in 1925. During his time at Kansas, Mattern supervised and coordinated some Works Progress Administration artists working in Kansas.

In 1948, Mattern and his wife, Mary, moved to Des Moines, Iowa, where he began to teach at Drake University. In Iowa, he served on the Acquisitions Committee at the Des Moines Art Center which opened that same year. He had one-man exhibitions of his works there in 1948, 1951, 1954 and 1960. Mattern continued teaching at Drake until the age of 70 when he taught one year at nearby Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa, before retiring from teaching.

Mattern died on January 18, 1969, in Des Moines. A memorial art exhibition of his works was held at the Des Moines Art Center in 1970. During his career, he exhibited widely and received numerous prizes for his work. His works have been acquired by art museums such as the Denver Art Museum, the Sioux City Art Center, the Joslyn Museum in Omaha, and the Des Moines Art Center.

The Fine Arts Collection contains two art works by Mattern. The watercolor painting “Cloud Patterns” was probably acquired after an Iowa Arts Council exhibit at Luther in 1974. It is undated. An untitled cityscape drawing was donated to the College in 1985. It also is undated.

Source of Biography
Who Was Who in American Art, 1985; 1999;
Karl Mattern, 1892-1969: A Memorial Exhibition. February 14-March 8, 1970, Des Moines Art Center, Sponsored by the Members’ Council of the Des Moines Art Center, 1970;
Dawdy, Doris. Artists of the American West: A Biographical Dictionary. Chicago: Sage Books, 1975-1985