Emigrating to Boston in 1913 from Poland with
his Russian-Jewish parents, Presser was admitted in 1921 at age
12 to the Boston Museum School of Art with a full four-year scholarship,
the youngest student ever accepted at the school. The lack of challenge
for the boy who could draw everything with ease set the stage for
Presser’s search as an adult for new forms and styles of expression.
4 years at BMFA, Presser’s boundless curiosity led him to
Europe in the late 20’s, signing on as a crew member of a
freighter, jumping ship in Hamburg, and working on horse-drawn canal
barges in Belgium and France and with small traveling circuses.
was at this time that Presser began reaching for new ideas of expression
while still embracing the “old world masters.” In Paris,
his studies of Renaissance painters in the museums of Europe are
reflected in “Cybele.” His first major painting sale
was brokered by the director of the Louvre.
artist settled into a studio in Philadelphia upon his return to
America in 1931, where his concern for the poor and socially deprived
grew with the urgency of the Great Depression, eventually earning
him a decent living painting WPA and private murals, as well as
a fast-selling body of more intense personal paintings.
have a genius in my class and I don’t know what to
say to him.”
~ Everett Hale,
Presser’s BFAM Professor
End on the Canal"
mixed media 1930's
the mid 30’s Presser moved to New York City, where he
met and married fellow NYC artist Agnes Hart, with whom he
would have a tempestuous relationship until his death. They
lived and worked in a loft over bustling 14th Street at Union
Square. He painted prodigiously, often paying off bar tabs
and butchers with a painting,
a quickly drawn portrait.
a draftsman Presser was probably one of the most gifted
of our time and to compare his with the drawing facility
of Picasso, may not be an over statement.”
~ Martin H. Bush, Founding Director,
Edwin A. Ulrich Museum of Art, Wichita State University
“Sea Wolf“ pastel c.1928
mural study detail c.1938 "Homestead"
pastel on paper 120"x48"