Find, Learn, Price Art
Enjoy the comprehensive art database we've compiled since 1987
Membership Details
Images, sales charts, bios, signatures, 30 artist Alerts and more ...
Art auction records:  Millions of references for pricing research
Or, register for Free Alerts
To track 10 artists.

Already a member?  Sign in here

Bernard Safran

 (1924 - 1995)
Bernard Safran was active/lived in New York, New Brunswick / Canada.  Bernard Safran is known for portrait, urban genre, rural landscape.

Bernard Safran

Biography from the Archives of askART

Biography photo for Bernard Safran
Born in New York City to Russian immigrant parents who fled Czarist Russia, Bernard Safran showed early art talent and attended New York's High School of Music and Art. He later graduated from Pratt Institute, and then served in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in China, Burma and India during World War II

In 1946, he began work as a commercial illustrator, freelancing as a book-jacket illustrator for mysteries and westerns. He earned adequate money in these jobs but decided to focus on fine art. In the mid 1950s, he spent six months studying masterpieces in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, examining the techniques used by such artists as Rubens, Velasquez and Rembrandt. Studying and copying these Old Masters, he learned an oil-glaze technique that gives Safran's work a special resonant coloration. He built up the surfaces slowly, layer upon layer, "accumulating richness, at the same time allowing the artist to lavish great attention upon each detail. The resulting total, while somewhat dark (Safran favors medium greens, blues, and reddish browns, and avoids whites and pastels), has a vital intensity that is remarkable." (Saltanic magazine)

A reviewer of a 1987 New Brunswick, Canada exhibition commented on the contrast between the tone of the subject matter of Safran's paintings and the shining finish of the artwork. Referencing a painting titled "The Parade", the reviewer wrote that it was "rather dark overall, and claustrophobic with its dozens of townspeople crowded along the foreground, (but) is nevertheless striking for the lustrous emeralds, maroons, and rusty reds of the children's winter jackets. The presence of twenty such works gathered into one gallery at the Art Centre was almost overwhelming."

Subsequently, after attempting with only modest results to have a fine-art career in New York, Safran was hired by TIME Magazine, which at that time featured a cover portrait each week of a prominent figure in the news. Between 1957 and 1966, Safran produced 73 TIME covers. Thirty-six of these are now in the collection of the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington DC.

Eventually Safran quit illustration work and turned to painting scenes of everyday life in New York City. He took thousands of photographs of street scenes and used them for studio paintings in realist style of people going about their lives. Because he was using a style that was counter to the prevalent abstract expressionism, he did not receive much attention for his artwork.

In 1973, Safran moved his family from suburban New York City to a remote nineteenth-century farmhouse, several miles from the nearest neighbor, outside of Sackville in New Brunswick, Canada. Here he returned to the theme of the experience of everyday life, frequently taking as his subjects the farmers, woodsmen, and fishermen of eastern Canada.

Between 1974 and 1989 Safran had solo shows at museums and galleries including the New Brunswick Museum in Saint John. He also had gallery representation in New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. In 1982, the Canadian Broadcasting Company produced and aired a one-hour documentary entitled "Bernard Safran, Portrait of an Artist".

In 1989, Safran retired. He died six years later in 1995.

His work is in the following collections:

National Portrait Gallery at the Smithsonian Institution
Skirball Museum, Los Angeles, CA
Amos Alonzo Stagg High School, Los Angeles, CA
Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, MO
New Brunswick, Canada
Mount Allison University, Sackville
University of New Brunswick Art Centre, Fredericton
New Brunswick Supreme Court of Appeals, Fredericton
New Brunswick Legislature, Fredericton
Andrew and Laura McCain Library, Florenceville
Nova Scotia, Canada
St. Francis Xavier University, Halifax
Nova Scotia Supreme Court of Appeals, Halifax, Ontario, Canada
Upper Canada College, Toronto

Source: including a review titled:
"Bernard Safran: A Decade", University of New Brunswick Art Centre, Fredericton, New Brunswick, 2-30 September 1987, from issue 31 (Spring/Summer 1988) of ARTSatlantic magazine
Note submitted November 2004 from Nicola Hubbard, D.Phil, Greenstone Geoscience, Houston, TX.

"I currently own a painting of Safran's, which was bought in Canada in the 1970's. My understanding is that Safran lived in the States and then retired to the Martimes in Canada. He was known for his original oil portraits of international figures, many of which appeared on the cover of "Time Magazine" during the 1960's. He often used his own daughter (daughters?) in his work -as in the painting that I own.

He also apparently used an unusual varnish on his work (according to the restorer who cleaned my painting), which tends to become sticky in certain weather conditions and can therefore have particles adhere to it - be careful when wrapping or transporting one of his works for this reason.

** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at

Share an image of the Artist

  Full access to biographies is
  free each Friday

About  Bernard Safran

Born:  1924 - New York, New York
Died:   1995 - New Brunswick, Canada
Known for:  portrait, urban genre, rural landscape