PART 2: Paintings by a fine artist – my Dad Bernard Safran
First I’d like to say – illustrators are artists….(and humans)
In my last post I showed you several examples of my father’s illustration work done between 1947 and 1957. What I hope I got across is that when he did commercial illustration in the 1950s he had to implement other people’s ideas and styles to please his clients.
When he quit doing illustration work in 1957, he started to paint to satisfy only himself.
He employed time honored techniques to express his own unique point of view. Across his ouevre you can see changes in content and a freeing up of brushstroke through time – but the essence of his work remains his consistently.
I’ve intentionally loaded really large image files so you can see up close how my father laid down the paint (click on the image to see close up, then back arrow to return to post).
The paintings I’ve chosen very clearly demonstrate how he used color to build depth and to reinforce an emotional response. The paintings are a reflection of how my father felt – the paint directly expresses him. He is the master of the image, the composition, the colors, the textures, the light, the mood… the works are entirely his creations and not dictated to by anyone or anything but his inner artistic sensibility.
He, as the artist, was free to paint whatever he wanted however he wanted.
My father chose to paint realistically because he felt it was the most direct way to communicate his art to people. The paintings may make you think about the people in them, but he did not impose a story line or try to steer the viewer towards an opinion. He tried to show what he saw as honestly and openly as he could and hoped the paintings would evoke an emotional response in the viewer.
I’ve tried to show you work from both periods of his life to help you see that his fine art is representational – but it is not illustration.
As I mentioned in an earlier post – he was swimming upstream for his entire career – by choosing to paint realistically during a period when contemporary realism was at best considered a dirty word.
Its not an overstatement to say that he really painted for himself. By mid life he didn’t care if his paintings sold or not. And, later in his life he refused to sell any of his paintings – turning down shows and sales: the paintings were part of him, and by that point he didn’t give a damn what anyone thought of his art.
He carried on the traditional methods of painters and married them to modern imagery, bringing his own personal perspective of life to life. His work is not sentimental, slick or about beauty: it is not like the sentimental Victorian work of William-Adolphe Bouguereau that is often held up as the supreme of realism; or the sharp, slick images of Richard Estes who paints in the photorealist style.
Bernard Safran’s work is direct, honest, nuanced and painted with a masterful brush.
I truly believe that my father’s work stands alone in the 20th century – he left an incredible gift to the world of his art.