Thursday, August 27, 2015

August is Artist Appreciation Month

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I love, love, love painting this boy and his sister. (I believe this is the third time?) More on that in my next post. But for today, thank you to the creative people at Patience Brewster for alerting me to the fact that August is Artist Appreciation Month. If you aren’t familiar with the name, Patience is the artist behind her company’s handmade Christmas ornaments. (Her illustrations are also exquisite.) Patience is passionate about sharing the stories of other artists, and her blog can be found here.

So what better time to write a little bit about the artist who has had the greatest impact on my own art, Hananiah Harari. Born in Rochester, NY, in 1912, he was already in his eighties when I began taking life-painting classes with him at the Art Students League in NYC. Though he was quite a bit shorter than I (and I am not that tall), he was a towering figure when it came to art. His work ranged from murals for the WPA in the 30s, to political illustration that got him blacklisted in the 50s, to precise realism and trompe l’oeil, to the semi-abstract style in which he painted when I knew him, and which I loved best.

His class was always full, he always wore a suit vest and bow tie, and as he made his rounds of the studio he always had something useful to say. How liberating it was to have a teacher who encouraged us to loosen up, to experiment, to go ahead and make the eyes two different colors. A three-hour portrait demonstration that he painted remains the single most instructive class I have ever had, possibly in any subject. My style is not yet as loose as Harari’s (hopefully some day), but I owe to him my ability to see all of the colors hiding in a face. I count myself extremely lucky to have had the chance to learn from him. 

Hananiah Harari’s work hangs in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Brooklyn Museum of Art, among others. And lucky me—one small piece hangs in my home!