John Roeder (1877-1964)

California outsider artist, John Roeder (1877-1964). The Blind Man, c.1955. Oil on artist board measures 24 x 36  inches; 26 x 38 inches in original frame. Signed and titled lower left. This piece dates from the period when Roeder was loosing his sight, and the painting’s title is clearly self-referential. Here the artist pays homage to the creatures who console him with lovely song as his horse and buggy pass beneath a tree vibrating with avian life. Provenance: collection of Vincent Porcaro. Exhibited: Richmond Art Center, Richmond CA, 1961; Excellent condition with no damage or restoration. Signed lower right.


Roeder is an early example of an American outsider or folk artist, and an exceedingly rare figure in the art history of California. We can only speculate as to his influences: Grandma Moses was undiscovered until 1938 and did not find fame until 1939-40, first exhibiting in NYC. Roeder was working in his mature style by 1935-6 as evidenced by other examples in our collection. Bill Traylor did not exhibit prior to 1940. Figures like Clementine Hunter, Gertrude Morgan and Howard Finster would not emerge for decades.
Birth place: Luxembourg

Death place: Richmond, CA

Addresses: Richmond, CA, 1909

Profession: Sculptor, painter

Studied: self-taught

Exhibited: Richmond Art Center, 1961 (solo), 1963 (solo); Oakland Mus., 1986

Work: Richmond Art Center

Comments: He worked in several professions and painted and sculpted in his free time in a primitive style.

Sources: Hughes, Artists in California, 476.

Born in Luxembourg in 1877. Roeder was raised on a farm and then worked in Lorraine in the steel mills and iron mines. With wife and children, he joined his brother in Richmond, CA in 1909. After working for Standard Oil as a pipe fitter and operating a ranch in nearby Sonoma, in 1928 he returned to Richmond to become the gardener for Union High School. A self-taught artist, in his leisure he sculpted and painted primitives. Roeder died in Richmond on July 31, 1964. Exh: Richmond Art Center,