I Did Make the Cut! (briefly)

In one of my first posts (Posing Old Testament Style) I bemoaned my lack of X factor while modeling, and believed that my disheveled appearance led my father to cover me up in a photographic shot in favor of my more distinguished mother and sister.

I also wrote that I didn’t know of any painting done from these reference shots – but Lo and Behold! …

Bernard Safran, the Fitzgerald Gallery show 1965, unknown title for painting with angel

Bernard Safran, exhibited at the Fitzgerald Gallery 1965, interior shot of installation

I found a photo taken at the Fitzgerald Gallery from my father’s first solo show in 1965 that shows a painting with this very group, including me, stunned by an angel appearing over us. My father is collapsed in shock in the foreground in front of my mother. I am still only a blob of hair – but there I am.

I cannot find a title for this painting or any other reference for it in any of the ledgers or papers of my father’s. So I am assuming that it was destroyed after the show, not sold.

If anyone can suggest what this is depicting I would really appreciate hearing from you – I have been trying to figure out what scene from the Old Testament this is of.

Its interesting to see the other pieces that were for sale in the same area. I know the existence of one of the drawings of the angel on the left wall, but again have no record of sales for the other drawings shown in the room. Perhaps they were gifted.

And… another wonderful surprise for me – I found a Kodachrome slide of a painting that I have to assume was destroyed, of myself and my sister based on that funny photo of me with my fly down. And here I thought I didn’t rate!

Bernard Safran, unknown painting c 1965

My sister and I in a painting, that as far as I can tell, did not go in the Fitzgerald Gallery show in 1965. So I guess I made the cut only so far as a painting was painted – it was probably destroyed by my father soon after it was created.

I guess my Dad did appreciate my unique style. I have no idea if this was painted to be a portrait of us two girls or it was meant to depict something else.

In any case, I am happy to find these last remaining images.

… to be truly accepted for who I am… not in spite of my personal style but because of it!

I will write more about the1965 show in upcoming posts. Stay tuned.


Posing Old Testament Style 1961-1965

As I mentioned in my earlier posts, my Dad was doing cover portraits for Time Magazine in the early 1960s (to see some of his Time portraits from 1957 –1966 go to http://www.safran-arts.com/gallery-time-1.html). And while he was working for Time, my father was also painting other works on his own time for himself. Many of these depicted Old Testament stories. So for the first few years of my life I saw friends, family and neighbors posing in my father’s studio and coming to Biblical life on his easel.

Betty Safran, 1964, for religious work

Trying to pose c. 1964

From what I can gather from his records, Dad probably started working on the series in 1961. These paintings went into his first solo show held at the Fitzgerald Gallery, located on Madison Avenue in Manhattan, in 1965. (I’ll be writing more in another post about the show of ’65.)

Here I am trying my hardest to pose seriously for some dramatic scene, and typically I am controlling myself yet typically cannot pull it off – note the way my sweater is sort of tucked in, my fly is open and I am wearing fuzzy socks. At least I have a noble (if not long suffering) expression on my face…

There is a series of photographs from this session – I offer two more of the shots here – so you can see how this photo shoot progressed to the final impressive image of my sister, mother and I looking in awe at some miracle…

…In the second shot my back is turned to the viewer and my dignified sister has joined me…

…In the third and last image from the series my mother is included, and I am reduced to a blob of hair in the back – no embarrassing open fly; no goofy expression…

Bernard Safran religious work reference material Betty

Bernard Safran reference photo for religious work c 1964The final painting that went in the Fitzgerald Gallery show, uses this last image with my head blob – I guess I just didn’t command enough presence to make the cut.

My paternal Grandfather posing as King Saul was one of the earliest paintings completed in this series.

Pop (as my father called his father), posed with a broom handle that in the painting serves as his mighty staff, and with a satin turban on his head that my paternal Grandmother made when turbans were a fashionable item in the 1940s or 1950s. Tiny Mama (which is what we called my paternal Grandmother on account of her being tiny) knew how to make fancy hats – she’d been a milliner in the early 20th century when she was a young girl and teenager. (It looks too, like Pop’s wearing my maternal Grandmother’s fur collared coat.)

King Saul 1961

King Saul by Bernard Safran, oil on masonite, 1961, 18″ x 28″

Despite my joking about the painting, if you really take time to look at – it is magnificent – beautifully and sensitively painted; a striking portrait of my Grandfather (and possibly King Saul).

Using props was just what the Old Masters did too – in fact most realist artists use 3D references when constructing a complex painting, and many have used photography or similar technologies* to establish composition and reference material.

The Angel and Mom034

My mother Adele assisting an angel

Bernard Safran reference photo c1964, Jacob and bloodied coat of many colors

Sinister Bernie Safran has just given Jacob the bloodied coat of many colors

Lastly, I’ve included a couple of shots of neighbors (and my father) posing in the studio of our house.  I especially like the picture of my mother and the angel.

*Note: My father used photographs as a tool – not as a crutch. His technique was very slow and time consuming and no one was prepared to pose in his studio for weeks or months while a painting was being created. For those of you interested in the more technical aspects of his work – I will be writing about all these things in the future.


My Beginnings: 1960 New York

betty safran bernard safran myartsyodyssey nyc black and white photography Time Magazine  New York Paintings Hello, my name is Betty. I want to tell my story because I think it’s unique, and interesting, and sometimes crazy. You see I grew up with two artist parents in a suburb of New York City during the 1960s.

When I was born in 1960 my father was quite a famous artist and had a following because he painted some of the most compelling portraits for the cover of Time Magazine in the history of the publication (http://www.safran-arts.com/gallery-time-1.html). We were living the high life – cruises, trips to Europe, fancy parties, shiny patent leather shoes… but twelve years later we were eating fried bologna for dinner, and sharing a house with a woodchuck, shrews and bats. In early 1973 we moved from NY to an isolated, run down farmhouse in Eastern Canada, which some people might say was in the backwoods of nowhere.

betty safran bernard safran myartsyodyssey nyc black and white photography Time Magazine  New York Paintings betty safran bernard safran Time M

Our house in Jolicure, New Brunswick, Canada circa 1973, looking up the drive from the road.

I always knew my family was different from my friends’ families. Our lives were steeped in art – art in the museums we went to all the time, art history at the dinner table, art being made at home, art on the walls. I never knew anyone else who had a nude painting of their mother on the living room wall – and it wasn’t just one nude – she was all three of the Three Graces!

My Dad eventually got tired of his painting of The Three Graces, and in 1973 he ended up using it to fix a wall in the hall of our farmhouse. First he scraped most of the painting off and then totally painted over it with white latex paint. That was the end of the Three Graces.

Other nudes of my mother were hung or see-able in the studio where friends, family and neighbors saw them – ugh.  Here she is as Bathsheba…

betty safran bernard safran myartsyodyssey nyc black and white photography Time Magazine  New York Paintings betty safran bernard safran Time M

Bathsheba by Bernard Safran, January 1963, oil on masonite 27.5” x 52”

I have a lot of stories to tell about my artsy life.

Please join me in my travels through time – I hope you’ll find my tales enlightening and entertaining.