Lewis Gerstle Mack
San Francisco, CA, USA
New York, NY, USA
Biographer of French Realist and Post-Impressionist artists. Mack's parents were Adolph "Dick" Mack (1858-1948), a pharmacist and owner of a pharmacy, and Clara Gerstle (Mack) (1861-1909), daughter of the Lewis Gerstle, grocery magnate of San Francisco (Gerstle Park, Marin County). Mack attended the University of California before switching to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, from which he received his B. A. in architecture in 1916. He worked as an architectural draftsman in New York until World War I was declared. After serving in the War, he returned to San Francisco where he again did architectural drawing and theater design production. In 1926 he left his architecture to travel to Spain where he made architectural measurements together with Thomas Gibson (1865-1941), producing a book on southern Spanish architecture in 1928. A companion volume for northern Spanish architecture appeared in 1930. Mack did extensive archival research in France, England and the United States on the artist Paul Cézanne, publishing a scholarly yet popular biography in 1935. This met with critical acclaim for its original archival research, standardizing the artist's life. He followed this with a second biography on Henri Toulouse-Lautrec in 1938. Mack served in the military a second time during World War II, stationed in England with the office of Strategic Services. During this time, he published a history on the Panama Canal. After the war, Mack wrote a third biography of a French artist, Gustave Courbet, in 1951. He authored a book on the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, of which he was a personal survivor, in 1981. Mack died in his Manhattan apartment at age 88. His papers, 1903-1974, are held at the University of California, Berkeley.Mack was the earliest full-length biographer of Cézanne in English. His biography began a series of scholarly English-language-authored biographies on the artist by John Rewald (q.v.), Jack Lindsay (q.v.) and Linda Nochlin (q.v.). Mack's thoroughness as an archival researcher dispelled many stories about the artist, for example, that the artist's family had descended from a Napoleonic officer and a black woman.
[B. A. thesis:] A Hotel for a California Seaside Resort. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1916; and Gibson, Thomas. Architectural Details of Southern Spain: One Hundred Measured Drawings, One Hundred and Thirteen Photographs. New York: W. Helburn Inc., 1928; Architectural Details of Northern and Central Spain. New York: W. Helburn, Inc., 1930; Paul Cézanne. New York: A. A. Knopf, 1936, [copyright 1935]; Toulouse-Lautrec. London: J. Cape, 1938; Gustave Courbet. New York: Knopf, 1951.
Mack, Gerstle. Lewis and Hannah Gerstle. New York: Profile Press, 1953; "Gerstle Mack, 88, Author, Biographer and Historian." New York Times February 17, 1983, p. D23.