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 Aaron Berkman  (1900 - 1991)

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Lived/Active: New York/Connecticut      Known for: painting-genre, landscape, interiors, portraits

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Aaron Berkman
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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following is with the permission of the author, Jeanette Hendler, and the article was published in Fine Arts Trader, April 1996:

AARON BERKMAN (1900-1991)
"THE WPA MASTER TEACHER AND ARTIST"

by Jeanette Hendler

Aaron Berkman was born in Hartford, Connecticut in 1900, the youngest of four children.  His parents had settled there around 1885.  He demonstrated early talent and encouraged by his parents, from 1916-18, he attended the Connecticut League of Art Students, founded by Charles Noel Flagg, Connecticut's official portrait painter. From 1919-21 he was a student of Albertus E. Jones at the Hartford Art School. Berkman stated that he was influenced during this time by George Inness and John Singer Sargent and the Old Masters.

He received a Scholarship to the Museum Art School of Boston from 1921-24 and then traveled to Europe, remaining there from 1924 through 1925.  He spent time in France, Italy, Spain, Holland and Belgium.

During the years of 1926-28, Berkman had one man shows at the Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford; Babcock Galleries, New York; and Grace Home Galleries, Boston, Massachusetts.

In 1929, during the Depression, he moved to New York City, continuing a friendship and painting relationship with Milton Avery.  Marrying Victoria Artese in 1931, he was appointed by the W.P.A. (Works Progress Administration) to a Directorship position at the WPA Art Center of the 92nd Street Y in New York City, at a Directors salary of $23.50 per week.  He was in charge of a Seventeen (17) member WPA Artist Faculty.  The school gave free tuition and had several hundred students. During this period, with Herman Baron ad Director, Berkman established the A.C.A. Gallery in New York City at 52 West 8th St., the first Artist Cooperative Gallery in New York City.

Summers were spent from 1939-1945 on Monhegan Island, Maine, in addition to summers on Cape Ann, Massachusetts, the Connecticut Shore,Vermont and the Adirondacks where many of his available works were painted.  During this same period, Berkman also wrote a regular column "ARTICUS COMMENTS" for ART FRONT with Herman Baron, as the Editor.

When the United States Government terminated the WPA at the 92nd Street Y, it then became the Y Art Center, with Berkman remaining as the Director.  In addition to being the Director, Berkman also taught classes there on Art and lectured on Art History.

Berkman, during this period, had one-Man Exhibitions at Stovola Gallery in Hartford, Connecticut in 1933, Erick Newhouse Galleries, New York City in 1935 and A.C.A. Galleries, New York City in 1932 and 1934 in addition to many group shows.

Among the writings produced by Berkman was as a regular contribution to the American Mercury (Debate with Jacob Burke "Art as Propaganda-1932) and in the American Spectator "Sociology of the Comic Strip" 1934.

Remaining the Director of the Y Art Center in New York City until his mandatory retirement at age 65 in 1965, he had additional One-Man Exhibitions at Associated American Artists, NYC, in 1945; Erick Newhouse Galleries, NYC, 1952; Babcock Galleries, NYC, 1954; Kaufman Art Gallery, NYC, in 1945, 1952, 1962 and 1966.

The Group Exhibitions included the Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, New York; The Connecticut Academy of Fine Arts, A.C.A. Gallery, New York; John Myers Gallery 21, New York; Norlyst Gallery, New York; Morgan Memorial, Hartford, Connecticut; The Riverdale Museum; the American Watercolor Society, New York; Roerich Museum, New York; The New School, New York; Bronx, New York Museum of the Arts; the W.P.A. Artists 50th Anniversary Exhibition; Audubon Artists, NYC; The New York WPA Artists Exhibition at Passaic County College, Passaic, New Jersey; and the Borough Presidents Gallery, New York City.

Berkman also received a Fellowship to Yaddo in 1956 and another Fellowship to the Huntington Hartford Foundation in Pacific Palisades, California in 1958.  His Memberships included Director-at-Large of Artists Equity and National Board Member and International Cultural Relations Committee Member (1958-1962) and Audubon Artists Member.

He wrote two books. Art and Space was published in 1948 by Social Sciences Publishers and The Functional Line was published in 1952 by Thomas Yoseloff Publishers.  During the years 1955 - 60, he was a columnist for ARTnews, writing a column entitled, "Amateur Standing".  Berkman was also on the Advisory Committee with Steve Wheeler at "THE FOUR O'CLOCK FORUMS LECTURE SERIES" 1953-55.

Amongst his many listings, Berkman is listed in WHO'S WHO IN AMERICAN ART, FRICK LIBRARY INDEX OF AMERICAN ART, WORLD BIOGRAPHY, WHO'S WHO IN WORLD JEWRY,

When Berkman retired from the position at the Y Art Center, he established Bercone Gallery, New York City.  There, he continued to paint, teach and exhibit. His work appears in many corporate, private and museum collections.

Written and submitted by Jeanette Hendler, Art Dealer, New York City


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