Karl Kasten


Karl  Kasten formatting Karl Kasten (1916- 2010) was a painter, printmaker, illustrator and inventor who was part of the Berkeley School. The abstract expressionist studied under Worth Ryder and Hans Hoffman and befriended influential artists from the movement including Willem de Kooning.

Kasten was born in San Francisco on March 5, 1916. His father was an electrical engineer who encouraged him to develop his artistic talents. He received his BA and MA degrees from U.C. Berkeley, where he was a teaching assistant for Worth Ryder.

After a brief teaching stint at the California School of Fine Arts, Kasten was drafted for World War II. Upon his return, he studied printmaking in Iowa on the GI Bill and taught for two years at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor.

Kasten returned to California to teach at San Francisco State, and joined the faculty at U.C. Berkeley in 1950. He started experimenting with Cubism and abstract expressionism, and in 1951 traveled to Provincetown, Massachusetts to study with Hans Hoffman. Susan Landauer, a biographer of the San Francisco School of Abstract Expressionism, called Kasten one of Hoffman’s direct artistic descendants.

In 1960 Kasten met Willem de Kooning, who later visited the U.C. Berkeley campus to try his hand at lithography for the first time. Kasten was a master printmaker who worked to heighten the prestige of the medium through bold experimentation. He helped found U.C. Berkeley's first printmaking facility, and collaborated with the Berglin Corporation to invent the lightweight K-B Press, which is still used by artists and art students today.

Kasten retired from teaching in 1983. He died on May 3, 2010. His works are in prominent museum collections around the world, including the San Francisco Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, the Oakland Art Museum and the M.H. de Young Museum.

Check out Kasten's impeccable etching “High Tor”, available at Matthews Gallery.