Louis Bassi Siegriest was born Feburary24, 1889 in Oakland California to a very wealthy family. He was the son of Louis Napoleon Siegriest and Emilia Bassi. His father had gone from driving the first horse-drawn streetcars in Oakland to making a fortune in the heating oil business and then went into making acetylene gas machines for home gaslights. He married Emilia Bassi in 1888. They built a large Victorian house where Louis was born and lived for the rest of his life.
At the age of 15, Siegriest was showing a strong interest in art which his parents encouraged. He enrolled at night in the California School of Arts and Crafts while attending high school during the day. Siegriest’s interests at first were as a cartoonist and won a "San Francisco Chronicle" comic strip contest. In 1917, Bernard von Eichman (1899-1970), a good friend and classmate at the Arts and Crafts School, encouraged Louis to transfer with him to the California School of Fine Arts on Nob Hill in San Francisco, where they studied with Frank Van Sloun (1879-1938). Both boys later studied with Van Sloun at his school. Having studied with Robert Henri at the Chase School in New York, Van Sloun was the first teacher to introduce Henri’s social-realist philosophy that artists had to listen to their own instincts and paint what seemed relevant to their lives, not what was fashionable in Europe.
Around 1917, Siegriest and Von Eichman became the youngest members of the Society of Six led by Selden Gile (1877-1947), who had also studied with Von Sloun. The group included William Clapp (1879-1954), Maurice Logan (1886-1977), and August Gay (1890-1948). They were based in Oakland and focused on California scenes as their subject using an aggressive Fauvist palette with a loose style rooted in Impressionism. The Group of six was rebelling against William Keith’s somber Tonalism and traditional realism of the last century. Von Sloun’s ideas may have helped the Group of Six appreciate their Americanness: while in Philadelphia and New York, Ashcan artists used the city as their subject, in California the “real world” was still nature. The Six actively exhibited in Oakland through the 1920’s before disbanding.
During the 30’s and the Depression, Siegriest traveled east finding occasional work as a commercial artist on assignments in Seattle, Dallas, Chicago, and Milwaukee as well as for the "San Francisco Chronicle." Returning to California, he worked in advertising for Maurice Logan and did poster work for the WPA. In 1945, he became a full-time painter and from 1948 to 1951 taught at the Art Students League of San Francisco. Poor eyesight caused him to stop painting in the 1970s and after a long successful career as a commercial artist and respected painter with styles ranging from impressionism to abstracts in mixed-media, Louis Bassi Siegriest died in Oakland in 1989.
Oakland Museum, Oakland, CA
Crocker Art Museum, San Francisco, CA
San Francisco Modern Art Museum
The Fred Jones, Jr. Museum of Art, Norman, OK