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Frederick Kann was born in Gablonz, Czechoslovakia in 1886. He studied architecture, painting, sculpture, and the applied arts at the Technical College of Prague and the Academy of Fine Arts in both Prague and Munich. Kann became involved with the German Expressionist group Die Brücke, exhibiting with them in 1905. By 1910 he moved to New York, supporting himself as a freelance and commercial artist. By 1928 he moved to Paris, where he taught studio art. It was during that period that Kann began painting abstractions.

In Paris, Kann joined the Abstraction-Creation group, an informal group of abstractionists formed to counter André Breton and the dominance of Surrealism. The founders were Theo van Doesburg, Auguste Herbin, Jean Hélion and Georges Vantongerloo. Members included Hans Arp, Francis Picabia, Wassily Kandinsky, Robert Delaunay, Joan Miró, Lazló Moholy-Nagy, and Alexander Calder. Kann exhibited his work with the group in 1934 in a show that also included work by Delaunay, Gorky, Kandinsky, Moholy-Nagy, and Mondrian, among many others.

In 1936 Kann was offered a position teaching painting at the Kansas City Art Institute. In Kansas City he exhibited at the Midwestern Artists exhibition, taking first prize in 1937. Kann continued his connections to New York as well. He was a founding member of the American Abstract Artists and exhibited with the group from 1937 to 1947. He helped organize the AAA's traveling exhibitions outside of New York. He also exhibited with the Council of Allied Artists and the American Artist Professional League. In 1940 Kann shared an exhibition with Piet Mondrian at Rose Fried's Pinacotheca Gallery in New York. He had a solo exhibition at the Pinacotheca Gallery in 1942 and at the Mortimer Brant Gallery in 1943.

In 1943, Kann left his teaching position in Kansas to accept a teaching position at the Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles. In California he opened the Frederick Kann-Frank Martin Gallery, also called the Circle Gallery, exhibiting his own work and other abstract artists. The gallery was one of the few to exhibit abstract art at the time. In 1953 Kann retired from the Chouinard Art Institute and established the Kann Institute of Art in West Hollywood. Kann died in Los Angeles in 1965.

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