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 Sandor Bernath  (1892 - 1984)

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Lived/Active: New York/Maine / Hungary/Honduras      Known for: sailing boats, urban and rural landscape painting, illustration, teaching

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Ad Code: 3
Sandor Bernath
from Auction House Records.
View from the Dock
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Sandor Bernath was known for his stylized watercolors of sailing ships. He was a student of Edward Hopper. Born in Hungary on December 30, 1892, Bernath immigrated in his youth to the United States, and by the early 1920s had begun to establish himself within New York art circles. In January of 1922, he was given a one-man show at Mrs. Malcolm's Gallery on East 64th Street.

Although little is known about Bernath's education and early training, this exhibition of nineteen watercolors included works, which suggest that by 1922, the artist had traveled and studied abroad. "Coast of Normandy" and "Shrine, Czechoslovakia" are two works the subjects of which certainly resulted from time spent in Europe.

Other paintings exhibited in the 1922 show, such as "Brooklyn Bridge", "Weehawken Freight Yards" and "East River" reveal that on the whole, Bernath's earliest subjects remained those found in New York. After his show at Mrs. Malcolm's Gallery, Bernath became a member of the American Watercolor Society and later that year, showed six works at their annual exhibition. Unlike the works exhibited on East 63rd Street, the watercolors featured at the AWS show, such as "Grand Manan Coast" and "Fishing Boats", reflected a growing attraction to the subjects offered within the Maine landscape, an attraction which truly took hold in the summer of 1922.

Like many of his peers, Bernath worked as a teacher and illustrator to support himself. In order to escape the tedium of these dreaded day-jobs, many retreated to the villages of Maine and Massachusetts where artists' communities such as those at Monhegan Island, Gloucester and Ogunquit had sprung from the modern artist's desire to study natural forms. By 1923, Bernath's fascination with these forms becomes apparent with the complete shift in focus of his subject matter from the sights and scenes of his urban surroundings to the land and seascapes of New England.

In 1923, having joined the Brooklyn Society of Modern Artists and exhibited at their annual spring show with contemporaries such as Stuart Davis, Bernath was chosen to participate in a winter exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum entitled Water Color Paintings, Pastels, Drawings and Sculpture by American and European Artists. This exhibition featured six of his watercolors representing various pastoral subjects; each executed during the artist's respites from New York City.

One of these works, "Surf" (1922), was purchased for the museum's collection, and subsequently featured in their 1924 show, Loan Exhibition of Brooklyn Art Treasures and Original Drawings by American Artists.

In 1925, he served on the Jury of Selection as well as on the Hanging Committee of the American Watercolor Society's annual exhibition but 1926, was his last year of participation. After a final exhibition with the Brooklyn Museum in 1927, it appears that Bernath took up residence in Eastport, Maine, where he continued to cultivate his relationship with the natural world. However, one work has been found listing W. Tunkhannock, Penna. as an address and watercolors exist of a Pueblo scene, leading to the conclusion that Bernath, like so many of his contemporaries, was drawn to explore the possibilities of the Southwest including Taos, New Mexico. ("Taos at Night" and "Footprints").

Another tale, so far unproved, has the artist immigrating to South America. The last known address listed by the Watercolor Society is Eastport, Maine and the last listing is 1945, but he lived on until 1984. fe gallery

Biography from Charleston Renaissance Gallery:
Best known for his watercolors of sailing yachts executed in a crisp
Precisionist style, Sandor Bernath was born in Hungary and lived in
Budapest before immigrating to New York.  By 1918, he had begun to
establish himself in the art life of the city.  Although slightly
younger than Edward Hopper and the Precisionist painters Charles
Sheeler and Charles Demuth, Bernath adopted both their aesthetic and
subject matter.  He made his professional debut in 1922 with a
solo show at Mrs. Malcolm’s Gallery on East Sixty-Fourth Street. 
The exhibition of nineteen watercolors included both New York and
European subjects, indicating that Bernath had spent time abroad.

In 1923, he turned his attention to seascapes of the New England
coastline.  During the twenties, he became a member of the New
York Water Color Club, American Water Color Society, and Brooklyn
Society of Modern Artists, and exhibited at the Whitney Museum and Art
Institute of Chicago. Like many of his peers, Bernath worked as a
teacher and illustrator to support himself.  In the late 1920s, he
moved to Eastport, Maine, where he continued to live until at least
1945. According to one source, he spent the last years of his life in
South America and died in Belize in 1984.

While Eastport
remained his primary residence, Bernath visited and painted in a number
of American art colonies—including Provincetown on Cape Cod—producing
streetscapes and architectural views reminiscent of Hopper.  In
1935, he traveled to Taos, New Mexico and painted the church at Rancho
de Taos, as well as a pink adobe structure surrounded by desert blooms.

Bernath visited Charleston in 1937.  Like many artists, including
Hopper, he was drawn to its rural cabins, moss-hung trees, historic
churches, and Civil War monuments. Accordingly, he approached the
subject of The Battery with a cool palette and smoothly delineated
forms.  Although the sky is restricted to a small area, it is full
of weather.  The dramatic background reveals Bernath’s sensitivity
to a particular place, season, and atmosphere.

For more information on this artist or the Southern masterworks in our collection, please visit our gallery website.

This essay is copyrighted by the Charleston Renaissance Gallery and may not be reproduced or transmitted without written permission from the Hicklin Galleries, LLC.

Biography from David Cook Galleries:
Sandor Bernath was born in Hungary in 1892, but emigrated to the United States as a youth. In the early 1920’s, Bernath was an up and coming artist in New York City. He became a member of the American Watercolor Society and the Brooklyn Society of Modern Artists. Bernath was also a student of Edward Hopper. Little is known about his education and training, but several works produced around 1922 prove that Bernath was studying abroad in France and Czechoslovakia.

His last show on record was in Brooklyn during 1927. After that, his whereabouts have been speculated to include: Maine, Pennsylvania, South America and New Mexico. It is thought that Bernath followed his contemporaries to Taos. His last listed address was found in Maine in 1945, but Sandor Bernath lived until 1984.

Studied: National Academy of Design

Member: American Watercolor Society; New York Watercolor Club

Exhibited: Art Institute of Chicago, 1923-1925, 1927; Whitney Museum of American Art, 1923-1926

Works Held: Brooklyn Museum

Further Reading: Biographical Encyclopedia of American Painters, Sculptors & Engravers of the U.S., Vol. 1. Howard Creps et al. Dealers Choice Books: 2002.; Mantle Fielding’s Dictionalry of American Painters, Sculptors & Engravers, 2nd Edition, Apollo, Poughkeepsie, NY: 1987.; Who Was Who in American Art 1564-1975: 400 Years of Artists in America, Vol. 1. Peter Hastings Falk, Georgia Kuchen and Veronica Roessler, eds.,Sound View Press, Madison, Connecticut, 1999. 3 Vols.

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