Harold Gretzner Biography

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Harold Gretzner (1902-1977) Born: Baltimore, MD; Studied: California College of Arts and Crafts (Oakland); Member: American Watercolor Society, California Water Color Society, West Coast Watercolor Society, Society of Western Artists. Harold Gretzner grew up in the eastern United States and attended art school in Washington, D.C. before moving to California in the 1920s. After settling in the Bay Area, he studied fine art in Oakland and lithography in San Francisco.

For over thirty years, he followed a routine. In the predawn morning, providing the weather cooperated, he would wake up and drive toward his workplace in San Francisco. Somewhere along the way, he would stop and paint a watercolor, usually depicting a cityscape or harbor view. He was exclusively a watercolorist and worked only with transparent paints. His style featured a controlled wet-into-wet approach, inspired by his close friend and painting partner, Maurice Logan.

Harold Gretzner was a prolific painter and exhibited from the 1930s to 1970s. He was a member of the Thirteen Watercolorists, and became a founding member of the West Coast Watercolor Society. On the East Coast, exhibited in the annual American Watercolor Society shows. Unfortunately a large number of Gretzner’s watercolors were destroyed in a fire that swept through Oakland, California.

For most of his life, Gretzner worked as a commercial lithographer in San Francisco. After retiring from this job in the 1960s, he continued painting and taught small groups of advanced students in the Oakland area.

Biographical information:

Interview with Teckla Gretzner, 1983.

Biography courtesy of California Watercolors 1850-1970,

©2002 Hillcrest Press, Inc.

California Watercolor