“They all became my models but they never sat still for me…”

Lionel Stern was a lifelong artist and New Yorker, a graduate of Pratt Institute, employed during the depression by the WPA;s easel painting division of the Federal Arts Project . His job was to take his easel and paints and brushes and palette and paint what he saw.  His territory then was New Hampshire.  Later it would be the entire country.  But New York City would remain his best teacher, through its people and streets, and through the extraordinary work he saw premier during the 40s, 50s and beyond.  Lionel clearly used the city as a never-ending graduate school.

While his long career reflected the story of 20th century art, from realism to abstraction—specifically geometric designs and color forms—underneath it all lay the observer forged by that early WPA experience.  Whether quickly sketched in his pad on the subway and later realized in his studio or painted on the spot, he continued to record life in New York, and even ventured across the country to the American Southwest to learn more of what it was to be an American.  He sought not to merely depict, but to capture some underlying truth, as the second half of the quote above shows:  “they all became my models but they never sat still for me and the more they moved the better I liked it.”

His work is in private collections and in the corporate collections of General Motors, Johnson & Johnson, Chase Manhattan Bank and others.


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 The Stern Art HeritageNew York, NY212 289-5814