Harold Baumbach Biography

New York - San Francisco

American master artist, Harold Baumbach was a well-known painter and printmaker, whose style ranged from FIGURATIVE to ABSTRACT.

The son of an upholsterer, on the Lower East Side, New York, who did not want him to be an artist, Baumbach basically taught himself to paint. He first made a mark during the late 1930's as a figurative painter in the style of Bonnard and Vuillard, doing densely patterned street scenes and Brooklyn interiors.

During summers he painted landscapes, mostly in upstate New York and New England, then spent vacations in Provincetown, Massachusetts, a thriving art community where his close friends and fellow-artists, Milton AVERY and ROTHKO also vacationed.

Over time, Baumbach's work became increasingly abstract, but figures - generic card players, people sitting in parks, cows in fields - were always present as dreamlike devices for explorations in color and spatial relations.

"His real subject was not the world outside of himself but the stuff and texture and light of paint," a review in 1975, in ART NEWS magazine explained. "He always turned everything he saw into his own patterned and textured imagery."

After an eye operation in the late 1980's he became legally blind, trying to paint for two years after that from memory before quitting.

In 1992, had a retrospective the same year at Brooklyn College Museum. His works are also held by several important American museums.

He was frequently described as an intimist and was loosely linked with Avery during the 1940's as a modern American painter, but he never belonged to any group, being restless and without a signature style.

Strong willed, allergic to fashion, even to success, he persisted in going his own way, refusing to sell to prospective buyers he thought did not admire the work properly and breaking off relations with galleries usually after only a show or two. He had 24 one-man shows in New York.

From 1946 to 1966, he also taught painting at the Brooklyn College, New York.