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Joseph Biel, painter and photographer, was born in Grodno, Poland (later Russia) on October 27, 1891 where he witnessed a pogrom.  He studied at the Russian Academy in Paris, and at the Workman’s College in Melbourne, Australia.  While living in Melbourne he established the first Jewish library in Melbourne.  Upon his arrival in the United States he studied with George Grosz at the Art Students League.  On November 24, 1931 he married artist Lena Gurr.  They lived in Brooklyn and also spent time in Cape Cod.  Their paintings were reflections of their environment.  Biel died of a heart attack in April, 1943.  Lena Gurr survived him and lived to 1992.
Biel was WPA Master Artist for one year, and a member of the Art Students League, Artists Union, American Artists Congress, Whitney Studio Club, Artists League of America, John Reed Club, National Serigraphic Society, Brooklyn Society of Artists, and the League of Present Day Artists.

 Joseph Biel

He exhibited at the Brooklyn Museum (solo, 1932), ACA Gallery (solo, 1934, 1936, 1939), Whitney Museum, Riverside Museum, World’s Fair in NY (1939), Salons of America, S. Indp. A., WMAA (1928-1934), “NYC WPA Art” at Parson’s School of Design (1977), and Tabla Rasa Gallery (2006).
Biel’s works are in the permanent collections of Museum of Western Art, Moscow; Biro-Bidjan Museum, Russia; Newark Valley Central School, NJ; P.S. 216, Brooklyn; Slater Memorial Museum, Norwich, CT; and PAAM among others.
Biel’s wife, Lena Gurr, described his work as follows:  “Joseph Biel was always a conscious social painter.  He couldn’t be otherwise, for, after witnessing a pogrom and other social ills in his youth in Grodno, Poland (later Russia) he was burning with hatred for oppression of all kinds… He believed that painting was the best weapon an artist had to express his inner thoughts and feelings, and that the artist should use that weapon to expose social injustice.”