A Tribute to Bernard Chaet. 1924-2012
I have much to say about Bernard but first I wanted to show you a few of his paintings since, after all, that's what he did so very well.
Bernard Chaet, Red Echo, oil/canvas, 1977, 36 x 42 inches
Bernard Chaet, Rocks at Folly Cove, 1990, oil/canvas, 24 x 66 inches
I’ve been painting “representationally” for 46 years. Thatpathway became inevitable due to Bernard Chaet’s compassionate and wise mentoring.
Many of us have had moments in our lives that stand out as important landmarks. For me, the most important moment in my life as a painter came about when I was in graduate school in New Haven, CN.
I had been making abstract paintings that had their origin under the guidance of Jack Tworkov through his course called, Thematic Development in Abstract Painting. Naturally the brilliance of Abstract Expressionism had become part of my growth.
I was at Yale due to my intense desire to understand and make paintings that stimulated me as much as those that I had admired since I was 5 years old.
Within 2 American graduate schools, (Indiana University Art Department and Yale University School of Art and Architecture) I felt that I was beginning to approach some of the understanding I craved. At Indiana, William Bailey, with whom I studied drawing and painting, recommended me to Yale’s school. Bailey told me that there were painters there who could help me approach my obviously sincere and intense goals. I was to learn that Chaet would be one ofthe most significant of those painters. Perhaps the most significant.
What could be better than being immersed in the advice of some of America’s most influencial painters. I thought I was located exactly where I ought to be. And even today I think I was. However, in 1965, I was feeling very uneasy about what I was doing and said so to Bernard. He asked me, “What do you paint in the summers when you’re not here?” I said, “I paint people and landscapes.” And he said, “Why don’t you think about that?”
Does everyone have intense dreams or desires? I did and still do. My unease in 1965 was generated by what had been constant in me since childhood. That is; what was the source of the amazing character of all those paintings that I been drawn to for so many years?
Well, I went on painting my Abstract paintings for another year and had my MFA review in 1966. After the faculty left the space of my exhibition and had indicated that I was now a “Master of Fine Art”, I became deeply morose. I realized at that moment that I had been making paintings for them but not for me. But I had no idea that Bernard’s advice to me the previous year had been and would be my way into the satisfaction that I had desired since childhood.
I like to keep my entries short so you won't get bored in your reading and viewing but I do want to add something here about Bernard's Spreading Light painting.
I'm one of 12 members of the Midwest Paint Group. http://midwest-paint-group.org/
One of our specific and measurable goals is to produce representational paintings that are not "retro" but are based on an understanding and appreciation of great historical painting achievments and, at the same time, are of our time. Chaet's Spreading Light is a great success of this kind although he was not a Midwest Paint Group member. This particular painting was able to maintain it's "naturalism" despite Chaet having worked on it for 11 years. Can you imagine how easily one might have lost the authenticity of a natural phenomena over that period of time? He had to keep it alive and re-invent it through painting. It is indeed about spreading light as seen and felt in nature as are all of his paintings. It also must be said that his paintings are his paintings and unlike anyone else. He did for himself exactly what he suggested to me when I was troubled with my pathway forward. And, within the tradition of landscape and still life painting, he was clearly not retro. His paitnings remain as a guide to young representational painters who have moved into the 21st century.