With a debt to his post-Impressionist and Fauvist mentors, Robert H. (Hyman) Bizinsky (1915-1982) returns into the limelight with a rediscovery of these exuberantly painted canvases. Reawakening our memories of Paris – he has explored its picturesque cafes, bookstalls along the Seine, historic bridges and dazzling monuments – with a discerning eye and explosively loaded brush.

ROBERT H. BIZINSKY:
An American in Paris
ROBERT H. BIZINSKY:
An American in Paris
PRESENTED BY:
ROBERT H. BIZINSKY:
An American in Paris
330 Pequot Avenue | Southport, CT 06890 | P: (203) 292-6124 | southportgalleries.com
SOUTHPORT GALLERIES
November 5 — December 31
2011
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You don’t have to be a Hollywood producer, Broadway lyricist, or
best-selling novelist to capture an irresistible story. Add into the mix the
picaresque adventures of a dashingly handsome young man. He’s
armed with a box of paints ready to brush onto raw canvas fantastical
images in a symphony of colors.
Picking up those tools, the artist went forth launching a promising
career. Six decades later, we now have the pleasure of viewing the
results of this artist’s Paris sojourn. This pictorial legacy is not so much
about our intuitive notions about the glories of Paris from yesteryear –
but speak to our most primal understanding of what constitutes
genuinely worthy art today.
Like a dream sequence in a Chagall painting, he has painted
himself into this story. Enhanced by our protagonist’s joie de vivre, the
seductive pleasures of artistic expression are passionately embodied.
The art and life of Robert H. (Hyman) Bizinsky [1915-1982] is simply too
exceptional to remain undisclosed.
Bizinsky’s biography unfolds as an authentic American enraptured
with Paris in those halcyon days in the late 1940s. Vividly invoking
painterly lessons of modernity, he surveyed its cafes, boulevards, oddly
arranged book shops and antique markets. Following in the footsteps
of earlier American painters –Patrick Henry Bruce, Marsden Hartley, or
John Marin his artistic pilgrimage to ‘La Ville-Lumieredefined the
zenith of his career. Like a siren’s call to the City of Light, Bizinsky was
magnetically pulled into the radiant beam of the Eiffel Tower’s search
for up and coming young artists.
Seeking his own artistic voice, his paintings reverberated with the
breakthroughs of post-Impressionism. At the very moment when
abstraction was all the rage back in the States, he animated his palette
with a ‘couleur-lumiere’ enriching his depictions of urban Paris and
the French countryside.
‘Biz’ – as he was affectionately known was well schooled by his Parisian mentors. It took a young American to catch
the tail end of the School of Paris branding it with his own carefree, ‘Yankee doodle’ insouciance. Lets try to forget
preconceptions of touristy post-cards showing a faux Paris in contemporary cartoons or travel posters. Here we embrace
Paris after the occupation but before being overrun by mass tourism with the advent of the jet-age.
A wistful authenticity is palpably sensed in the catalogue for an Exhibition of American Veterans in Paris.” An
ambitious event staged in January, 1948 under the auspices of the United States Embassy, it filled the walls at the
Pershing Hall on the Rue Pierre-Charron. This elegant early 19th century palais, a prime example of the Empire Style,
was General John Pershing’s general headquarters in WWI. The exhibition’s broadside published a statement of the
organizing committee, with Biz listed as one of its authors:
“This is the first show of importance in Paris exhibiting the work of young Americans who at the Wars’ end laid down
their arms to continue or begin their lives as painters or sculptors. They have come to Paris from all parts of America in
search of its great artistic traditions to stand before its magnificent art treasures the Louvre, the Petit-Palais, the
Impressionists, the Cathedrals, the Bridges, the Gardens and its hundreds of other wonderful monuments Paris, the most
beautiful city in the world despite its War years.”
These canvases are distinctively his inheritance of the visual rhythms by Cezanne , Matisse, and Derain – and later
by Dufy and Utrillo. With agitated swatches of bold colors and unrestrained outbursts of undulating lines, Biz painted
the Place Pigalle, the Lapin Agile, the Moulin Rogue and the bookstalls along the Seine.
Unerring, with a discerning eye and responsive brush, he conducts an American symphony orchestrated in the mood
of a resurgent Paris in its post-WWII years. These famed locales were glimpsed with renewed vigor and incorporated
distinctively as elements of his repertoire. In their totality, Biz presented a panorama of a storybook Paris which exists in
our mind’s-eye with lingering nostalgia of a world now vanished.
ROBERT H. BIZINSKY:
AN AMERICAN IN PARIS
Philip Eliasoph
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Surprisingly, this artistic treasure has remained an unknown puzzle. Most of what we are presenting in this
exhibition has not been seen in over 60 years since the moment when paint was still dripping off the artist’s palette.
Through a ‘wrinkle in time’ we are now ready to reassess the unsung achievements of an American original. Collectors,
curators, and connoisseurs appreciate that sometimes art history is not just about the celebrated, big-name artists of each
era. Drilling deeper into the mine shaft, on rare occasions we just might find a hidden vein of gold.
From 1936-1942 Biz attended art classes at Atlanta’s High Art Museum school. To support his art training, he rose
quickly as the resident artist at ‘The Atlanta Constitution’. These editorial page sketches gave him a firm idea of the ‘quick
s
ketch’ capturing the expressive mood of subject, time and place.
As the war arrived, he dovetailed his professional skills with the Army’s plans for his service. Before enlisting in the
summer of ‘42 he traveled to Provincetown to attend Hans Hofmann’s now legendary painting class. Like millions of
ambitious young men of “The Greatest Generation,” he went off to war uncertain of how its outcome who eventually
shape his life.
At first stationed in Ireland, Scotland and England, he arrived in North Africa as an Army art correspondent with the
1st Armored Division. In February, 1943 his unit was thrown into the Battle of the Kasserine Pass in the Tunisian desert.
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s an eyewitness to this bloody engagement against Gen. Erwin Rommel’s battle-tested Afrika Corps , he saw the death
of over 1,000 young American GIs. Those horrific days thrust young Biz into adulthood as violent days of reckoning. Out
of that harrowing dance with death – he was determined to celebrate life through art.
In a memoir, Biz wrote: “I have been in the presence of death on innumerable occasions…I have felt the hot and cold
breath of my buddies as life ebbed out of their gaping wounds. At every brief minute or ‘break’ I devoted my leisure to
sketching in pencil, pen, and ink, or in watercolors, my surroundings.”
On the North African battlefield, he produced over 580 drawings, sketches, and watercolors documenting that bloody
rout which are today in the U.S. Army Historical Centers collection in Washington, D.C. Still in active service, Biz
received a letter of commendation dated May 9, 1944 from the High Art Museum’s director which noted:
“You may be sure that we will show your work in the continual monthly shows as a reminder to us and your many
friends how much a soldier cares about art on the home front. Your attitude is not, certainly, neutral or Pearl Harbor-ish
about what you are willing to fight for and we all think your action in this case speaks louder on the subject of what is
important than any number of words we could put down.”
Recognizing his innate talents, his Army superiors assigned him to the military hospital in Casablanca where he
became a loved instructor rehabilitating wounded American GIs. He wrote after returning to the States: “the ten months
I put in doing this work helped convince me of the great role a good artist and art organizer could play in sponsoring
inter-relationships between races, differing in their ideals, intellectual concepts, and general modes of living.”
He was selected to an elite showing of combat artists at the National Gallery of Art’s summer, 1945 exhibit of “Soldier Art.”
Drafting a short autobiographical summary as he returned to civilian life, Biz wrote: “I am 29 in excellent health,
with a great capacity for work. With a minimum of bias I consider myself sincere, prolific of output, essentially most
promising, and greatly in love with my work.”
After the war he returned to Atlanta to visit family where he was greeted as a hero in the local press: “Biz served with
the Army combat engineers until his discharge [as corporal] in 1945. Now he lives the kind of life that many envy, but
few would try. Living and working wherever he feels inclined to go. He enjoys the true realism, the true sophistication of
the French. ‘Europeans accept everything,’ he says, ‘their sophistication is inborn, not a veneer or an artificiality as with
many Americans. The best dressed woman in Paris may conceivably walk down the street with a ragged man.’”
Biz used his GI Bill to enroll in classes at New York’s Art Students League, an artistic hothouse with notable painters
of his generation including Milton Avery, Will Barnet, Paul Cadmus, Adolph Gottlieb, and Jackson Pollock. Mentor Hans
Hofmann considered Biz a star pupil at his Provincetown
workshop and in 1946 recommended continuing his
training in Paris.
This was just at the time and place when
Manhattan ‘stole the show’ from Paris as the capital of
avant-gardism. At mid-century, the macho- muscularity
of New York abstraction won the art war. Ah, but Paris
retained an aroma of sweetly fragrant memories.
New York was more cutting-edge angst. Paris retained its
lingering ‘nose’ like a round goblet of properly aged
Bordeaux.
By 1948 he was enrolled at the Academie del la
Grande Chaumiere, and nominated for the Prix de la
Critique. This haven for aspiring modernists – with
noteworthy alumni: Alexander Calder, Alberto
Giacometti, Isamu Noguchi, and Amedeo Modigliani –
only offered the bare essentials of “a nude model and
heat” in the winter. The ‘Large Thatched Roof Cottage
school was a beehive of independent artistic practice.
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Biz had no inclination for the conservative theories or rigid rendering practices of the Ecole des Beaux Arts. “At the
Academy of the Grande Chaumiere they told me that Bizinsky was the best American student they ever had,” wrote
Atlanta Constitution Editor Ralph McGill. In its lead editorial on Dec. 19, 1949, we learn that Biz didn’t “go Paris.” This
was no holiday: “he worked - I’m proud of him.”
The seductive force of Paris --its art academies, cafes, and artistic milieu - pulled Biz in the opposite direction. He was
not among the leading edge of Americans entering into Greenwich Village action painting . Biz took emotional refuge in
the advances of early modernism: inspired by Cezanne, and the direct pupils who were the Fauvists, late Cubists and
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oosely allied ‘School of Paris’ painters. He easily fell into the polyglot realm of these ‘les maudits’ (the cursed) who
employed expressive distortions and highly abstracted forms in their churning, swirling images of people, places, and
landscapes.
Most notably, Bizinsky studied with the eminent painter Achille Emile Othon Friesz (1879-1949). A disciple of
Cezanne, the younger Friesz was among the original circle including Matisse, Dufy, Vallotton, and von Dongen– to show
at the February, 1904 exhibition at the Salon des Independants. That historic event of rebellious painters displayed
canvases in a riot of color. As anti-academicians overthrowing the pompousness of antiseptic realism, they invented
Fauvism.
From this legacy of Cezanne and then Friesz, the Fauves “wild beasts” employed distorted perspectives,
dismembered forms, and outrageously arbitrary colors (orange clouds, lavender hair, purple trees, pink bridges, blue
bananas) to upset the expectations of the viewer. To honor this aging lion of early modernism, young Bizinsky felt he was
an heir to the mantle of both Cezanne and his pupil Friesz. Carrying forward their torches, Bizinsky’s paintings are an
homage to these giants of French modernism.
The post-war years seem to replicate or overlap the experience of other American artists and writers. His rambling
experiences -- an American ex-patriot, WWII vet living la vie boheme on the Rive Gauche -- rings pitch perfect with
another classic. Syncopated to Gershwin’s melodies in 1951, Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron romped across MGM’s back lot
facsimile of the City of Light in ‘An American in Paris.’ As a broad-shouldered, attractive American bachelor with a few
greenbacks in his wallet – entertaining the local ladies, one could only ask: “Who could ask for anything more?”
An unquestionable talent, critical fame, and a flash of international notoriety notches up Bizinsky’s narrative. It was
in the August 22, 1949 edition of LIFE magazine that Bizinsky came to the world’s attention. It was his destiny that an
article would include him in “The New Expatriates”. Biz’s appears like a leading man from central casting - in a
wonderful street scene entertaining four Parisian street waifs with a freshly painted oil work on his easel. This photo
documents a transcendent truth: Biz was there!
He told LIFE’s correspondent: “In the States an artist in the family is a disaster. His folks think he is wasting time and
he isn’t too sure that they aren’t right. Here we are all trying, and the very atmosphere of the place helps…You get
respectful attention in the States only after you are
a success – not before, when you need it.”
The background settings for this epic
lifetime changed in period, style, and localized
scenery. His sparkling, colorful palette and eye for
local detail captured biographical events with a
robust vitality. From the blinding sandstorms
of the Tunisian desert in tank warfare, to
the artists’ garrets and studios nestled into
Montmartre and Montparnasse, or his later years in
southern Californian light, Biz sketched and painted
his autobiography with a bold vibrancy.
From war’s traumatic experience, he too
was in that generation of non-conformists, rebels,
‘beatniks’, and philosopher kings in their own right.
Rejecting the ‘get a profession’ expectations of his
Orthodox family, he set out into the world as a
rugged individualist. Like Saul Bellow, Bernard
Malamud, or Philip Roth, he wrestled with his
Jewish identity within the context of a conflicting,
existentialist modernity. Certainly as a Jewish GI,
the defeat of pagan Nazism was deeply personal
and essential.
And yet, his newer identity sought universal recognition in the greater art world beyond race, religion, or caste. As
such, Biz’s consciousness sought engagement with a wider set of challenges knowing his art plunged the deepest depths
of his soul. These conflicts of modernity were equally experienced in the ambivalence towards the Second
Commandment’s iconophobia. Other Jewish bohemians in Paris: Marc Chagall, Amedeo Modigliani, Jules Pascin, Chaim
Soutine, and Osip Zadkine, had no option but to invent a new covenant for the visual arts.
Similar to Jack Levine, Ben Shahn or even Alex Katz, Biz never dismissed elements of the natural world in his
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pictorial rhetoric. He remained true to his vision as a mystical visionary before
an invisible but sensorial notion of the Almighty. One could even view his
Jewishness was most applicable in depicting nature as something ineffably
powerful but outside of physical description.
Surveying his golden moment - -Paris in the late 40s Biz was truly an
ascending painter in that era. Reviews from credible critics and
objective observers in the Parisian and international press uniformly praised
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his up and coming American. “The G.I. Bill produced at least two artists of
extraordinary talent who won later fame,” declared William E. Share, Attache
at the American Embassy in Paris. “The first, Norman Mailer…The second is
Robert Bizinsky whose modern landscapes are now commanding top prices in
Paris salons.”
Enabled with 20/20 hindsight we can confidently determine his
enduring artistic integrity. One colleague who recognized his enormous ability
was the notable Parisian critic and poet Philippe Soupault.
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ntroducing his exhibition at Le Galerie Sainte-Placide [Jan 15-30, 1949]
Soupault, considered the first Surrealist poet, wrote admiringly:
“Bizinsky came from the United States like a boomerang (returning after
the war’s end) and has set forth on the discovery of a new world. He does not fear
pitfalls. The capes and peninsulas bear the names of celebrated men, as the
mountains and lakes are christened to honor memories. I am thinking of Mount
Picasso, Lake Braque, or Cape Matisse…We will admire the courage, so rare, of a painter who is willing to listen only
to himself.”
By the early 1950s he settled in Los Angeles and became a respected senior member of a growing art community. He
was afforded continuing recognition indicated by the renowned playwright and essayist Christopher Isherwood, whose
memorable “Berlin Stories” about Sally Bowles formed the libretto of “Cabaret.” The artist and author became friends in
the nouveau culture of southern California.
Isherwood proclaimed: “Bizinsky’s work has a quality which stimulates greatly…He can make you share his appetite
for a scene so that you wish you could eat it. I suppose Bizinsky gets this affect by his highly evocative use of color. But
behind this brightness, there is something more mysterious and sophisticated.”
Fortuitously, we are among the first to hear about -- or to see compelling evidence of this productive artistic career.
It was art expert Gene Shannon and his wife Mary Anne who believed “right down to their toes” in the artistic quality of
these canvases. The Shannons flew out to Los Angeles in 1989, seven years after the artist’s passing, with a keen interest
and eagle eye for artistic quality.
Shannon negotiated with Bizinsky’s widow, Eleanor Anita Guggenheim, to acquire the remaining assets of the Estate.
But beyond an incredible cache of prime ‘mid-century’ canvases capturing the Paris of a bygone era, he made a solemn
pledge to Mrs. Bizinsky to shepherd the future legacy of these important artworks.
Each painting has been authenticated with the official ‘stampof the Bizinsky Estate executed under his widow’s
supervision. “Mary Anne and I felt obliged to live up to Eleanor’s wishes as she was fully committed to her late husband’s
lasting artistic bequests.” As a testimonial, this exhibit fulfills that promise.
Now restored into a new light and resurrected from the shadows of time, this exhibition presents a major artistic
re-discovery of an artist who lived out his dreams. That great icon of American art, Edward Hopper, once noted his
skepticism about the ongoing recognition for aging or forgotten artists. Hopper, a curmudgeon of sorts, said it well:
“Ninety percent of them are forgotten ten minutes after they’re dead.”
With gratitude to the Shannons’ intuitive instincts, we are not going to forget Biz. With this exhibition, we are
escorting him back from the indignities of artistic extinction. Inevitably, this publication ensures that Bizinsky won’t be
erased from the history of 20 th century art.
That unique experience of the quintessential “American in Paris” is our privilege to now cherish. Any viewer with a
sensitive eye and warm heart will undoubtedly rejoin Biz along his marvelous journey painted over six decades ago. Just
at that magical moment when Julia Child began mastering the art of French culinary delights in 1949, Biz was also
cooking up his ‘grand bouffe’ on canvas. Infused with ingredients of throbbing, tremulous outlines and intense coloristic
liberties, his images arouse ambrosial delights of places seen and imagined. Perhaps, it is within the aroma of Paris of
that era in these paintings which most poignantly impacts our senses.
Allowing us to wander aimlessly around the very idea of Paris he created this collage of cozy cafés, juxtaposed
street corners, elegant bridges and grand monuments -- leaving us an enduring legacy. Bizinsky’s art now and
then remains unquestionably and deliriously an enviable ensemble of paintings. As this re-discovery proves,
Robert H. Bizinsky’s art is inescapably ‘tres magnifique!’
Philip Eliasoph, Ph.D. is Professor of Art History at Fairfield University. His lifelong pursuit is the rediscovery and reassessment of forgotten
American artists of the 20th century who once held positions of critical significance. Advocating their meritorious – but overshadowed
-- achievements, Dr. Eliasoph has published groundbreaking monographs on Paul Cadmus, Robert Vickrey, and Colleen Browning. He
teaches American Painting, Florentine Renaissance Culture, Art & Nazism, Museum Studies, and Jewish Art: From Moses to Modigliani.
1. Woman and Child, Tuileries Gardens
oil on canvas, 24 x 18.
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“The G.I. Bill of Rights produced at least two artists
of extraordinary talent who later found fame.
The first, Norman Mailer, author of the best-selling
novel, The Naked and the Dead who studied here in
1947. The second is Robert Bizinsky whose modern
landscapes are now commanding top prices in
Paris Salons”
United Press Stars and Stripes quoting
William E. Share, Attache, American Embassy.
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2. Strolling Down a Parisian Street
oil on canvas, 24 x 18.
3. Scaré-Coeur from the rue de Montmarte
oil on canvas, 24 x 18.
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THE
LYRICAL POST-IMPRESSIONISM OF ROBERT BIZINSKY
by Anne Ayres
The joyously colorful paintings of Robert Bizinsky are witness to a lifetime contemplation of
nature and the external motif. His landscapes and cityscapes reveal an artist not only gifted in his
craft but acutely attuned to the harmony of the world. Whether working in the style of postwar School
of Paris naturalism or in the California landscape tradition, his best paintings combine commitment
to the objective impression with a sensitive interpretation expressed coloristically.
In this synthesis Robert Bizinsky considered himself an esthetic descendant of Paul Cezanne and
his dictum concerning the realization of nature through the forms of sphere, cone and
cylinder. But like Cezanne himself, Bizinsky took nature for a teacher and never abandoned the
recognizable image for geometric abstraction. Praised by French critics for his independent path,
he avoided the non-representational, freely gestural Art informel that paralleled in France the
emergence of Abstract Expressionism in New York. Rather Bizinsky’s vision remained post-impres-
sionist. It was explored initially in a youthful body of American Scene paintings of his native
Georgia; later was developed in sketches and watercolors of soldiering in North Africa during
World War II.
Bizinsky’s post-impressionist bent was refined and strengthened in Paris by an admiration for the
coloristic pictorial harmonies of Henri Matisse and French fauvism - particularly as revisited in a
post-1945 independent French expressionism. Thus Bizinsky became the protégé of Emile-Othon Friesz,
a pioneer fauvist and cultivated School of Paris painter who taught at the Academie de la Grande
Chaumiere where Bizinsky studied.
There are indeed felicitous reminiscences not only of Friesz but also of other originators of fauvism
(Raoul Dufy, for instance and Albert Marquet) in the lighthearted charm of Bizinsky’s Paris cityscapes.
The American artist however,
was more concerned with
pictorial depth, solidity of
construction and clarity of
outline.
Bizinsky’s Paris legacy was
to be nourished by the
bright color and often brutal
light of Southern California
where he settled in the early
1950’s. The sun drenched
paintings of this period, freer
of brushwork and more
relaxed in construction, show
an intensification of the tart
accents of the Paris work as
well as sharper color contrasts. Pure landscapes capture the foothills, flora and verdure of the Los
Angeles environs, but more often man is included, shown neither
dominating nor dominated by nature but sharing in a rhythmically expressed harmony. The
paintings are those of a man joyously at ease with being-in-the-world, one who felt deeply the
significance f an artistic vocation:
…individual harmony…that’s a man’s reason for existing. The reason that man paints is to
4. Musee Du Louvre and the Seine, Paris
oil on canvas, 18 x 24.
5. Outdoor Cafe
oil on canvas, 14 x 18.
inventory this harmony. If a painter is capable of turning
out a painting every day, he more or less has a diary of what
his existence has meant to him, of how he is related to the
u
niverse.
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This response to life and the work it informs is rooted in
Bizinsky’s formative experiences in his native Georgia and
in the maturing influences of his Paris studies and world
travels. As a painter and teacher living in Brentwood, Los
Angeles, Bizinsky shared his thoughts on life and art in an
anecdotal column in the local newspaper call “Form and
Color.” Certainly Bizinsky’s world had always been that of
form and color. His earliest memories were of colors –“very
vivid yellows and reds and greens, dark bodies with purple
casts, dark bodies against white cotton, golden stalks of corn
and the red earth.”
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Those were the colors of the American
South where Hyman Robert Bizinsky was born on June 17,
1915 into a Jewish-Russian family that had immigrated to
Georgia in 1905 and settled permanently in Atlanta
following World War I. The young Bizinsky led a rugged
and idyllic American boyhood roaming the “Cherokee
country” and exploring the Okefenokee swamp.
The security of Bizinsky’s childhood no doubt affected
the subject matter and tone of his later painting, but the
initial pull toward art must have seemed challenging. The community was provincial; and a
patriarchal and Orthodox father, ambitious for a medical career for his son, did not encourage
artistic yearnings. But nature showed itself to Bizinsky as a complex phenomenon of form and color,
and it was then that the adventurous youth became committed painter:
…the three dimensional world grew less interesting that the two dimensional one and the
problems of the two dimensional world must be faced on canvas.
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Bizinsky’s youth was not, however, without artistic precedents. He was inspired by the color
patches of Cézanne and the energized line brilliant color of Van Gogh, books having been supplied
by an understanding aunt. He discovered for himself the perhaps more accessible narrative
excitement and dash of the Western cowboy” painter, Frederick Remington. By the mid-1930’s,
Bizinsky had taken for his heroes such regionalist as Grant Wood and John Steuart Curry. When he
finally approached Ralph McGill, the crusading editor of the Atlanta Constitution, Bizinsky was
calling his work “regionalism in painting”
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– and himself a young man who needed a job.
It was the height of the Depression, but McGill was impressed by the young artist’s willingness to
work for the price of paint and canvas. Soon Bizinsky was working at night for the Constitution; and,
as “Biz”, he contributed cartoons of political, sports, and theatrical celebrities and originated
“Georgia Oddities” for the Sunday magazinesection. During the day he attended classes at the High
Museum of Art. McGill, first a beloved mentor and then an appreciative collector of Bizinsky’s
paintings, remained a lifelong friend.
In February of 1942, Bizinsky joined the army. He grasped at the army not only as a patriotic
service but also as a “great Opportunity”
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a way out of the situation in Atlanta that could not
channel his professional ambitions. Bizinsky’s background indicated the camouflage corps, but he
ended up instead as an infantryman in the First Armored Division of the Combat Engineers.
The Combat Engineers were shipped off to the harsh North African campaign of 1942-42;
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“I feel,
I have discovered
him in France,
announced
Friesz–“There is a
great latitude of
strength and
sensitivity in the
painting of
Bizinsky.”
Bizinsky’s company was in the thick of the action
between the Allies and the German Africa Corps,
including the bloody engagement at Kasserine Pass.
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ut by mid-year Bizinsky’s teaching skills sent him
to the Atlantic Base Section Headquarters in
Casablanca where he set up art classes for wounded
soldiers. All the while his artist’s eye responded to
the clear light and vivid colors of Tunisia and
Morocco. He felt kinship with earlier artists abroad
in North Africa - Delacroix, Matisse, Klee- and his
pencils and brushes were always busy.
Bizinsky rotated home to the States in April
1944 and the remaining months of his service were
spent teaching in the Occupational Therapy
Department of Batty Hospital in Rome, Georgia. He
was given an exhibition at the prestigious High
Museum of Art but Paris, still considered the
traditional center of the art world, beckoned. As an
interim step, Bizinsky attended on the G.I. Bill of
Rights the Art Students League in New York. After
a high recommendation from the director of the
ASL to the École Nationale Superieure des Beaux-
Arts, Bizinsky departed for Paris on November 10,
1946. The happy legend of “Vie de Bohéme”
was of an earlier Paris rather than that of
the gray postwar city. But if the climate was
literally cold and money was always short, the
artistic ambience remained warming. Inspired by
a life of hard work in the ateliers and good talk in the cafes, Bizinsky fell in love with a Paris where
“all the world paints” and “the role of the artist is not separated from the life of the city.”
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There was
time for travel too, and Bizinsky profited from sketching trips to Brittany and the South of France.
Spain and Italy especially were fruitful experiences.
In Paris, Bizinsky participated frequently in group exhibitions and helped to organize many.
Numerous currents from the past flowed into the French academies after the war. Most apparent in
the group shows were a late synthetic Cubism verging on the non-objective; romantic nudes in the
manner of Modigliani; and a surrealist figuration derived from Picasso. Bizinsky however had
different mentors: the old master fauvist Emile-Othon Friesz, of course, but also a later generation
artist exemplified by Yves Brayer, who painted vigorous and colorful expressionist landscapes of
Southern France. Bizinsky worked in the atelier of Yves Brayer for three years and was considered by
him to be “incontestably the most gifted of the American veterans.”
It was Bizinsky’s passion for following an independent direction that led him to be
singled out as an American star in Paris destined for a career of excellence – and, indeed, in 1948 he
was sponsored by Friesz for the prestigious Prix de la Critique. He was praised by critics for his
“beautiful qualities, fresh touch and solid way of painting” and embraced as “an ardent colorist and
tender observer of our streets and way of life.” The internationally renowned sculptor Ossip Zadkine
told Life magazine that,
. . . you can put this down and sign it Zadkine: There are boys her now the States are going to hear
of – Paul England and Kenneth Noland and Robert Bizinsky.
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Further, it cannot be overemphasized that in the esthetic chauvinism of postwar France it was an
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6. Fountain at St. Paul de Vence
oil on canvas, 21 x 32.
7. Across from a Cafe, Paris
oil on canvas, 21 x 25.
unsual accolade to be one of the few Americans given a one-man exhibition in a noted Paris gallery.
Consistent with the high esteem accorded Bizinsky, the Gallery Castelucho introduced his work with
an appreciation by the celebrated Surrealist writer, Philippe Soupault. Perhaps in a tip of the hat to
A
merican’s vaunted individuality and rawness, Soupault stressed the “unsuspectingly rare” quality of
spontaneous openness in Bizinsky’s approach “you shall like the courage, uniquely his own, of a
painter who does not wish to listen to anyone but himself.”
If Bizinsky had remained in Paris his opposition to current schools of abstraction might have led
him to work in the vein of expressive social realism; certainly one aspect of Bizinsky’s work the
relatively violent distortions of some figural compositions – suggested such a direction. On the other
hand, any kind of modish existential despair was fundamentally antithetical to Bizinsky’s cheerful
temperament, coloristic gifts, and distrust of fashionable trends. In the event, Bizinsky remained
alone; and it was thus a certain American quality in his post-impressionist style that the critics
intuited. They found this Americanism in a pictorial language of great spaciousness and clearness.
The influence of French expressionistic naturalism was sophisticated development of
Bizinsky’s youthful American regionalist sympathies; and bursting through the refinements of late
School of Paris painting was the artist’s spontaneous appetite for the intensities of French fauvism as
fed by memories of the colorful Georgian countryside. Perhaps too, it was not strange that Bizinsky’s
Brittany and Paris scenes were thought to emanate a California sense of light and space.The
comment was prophetic. By 1951 Robert Bizinsky was back in the States and settled in Los Angeles.
Bizinsky originally arrived in Los Angeles as the recipient of scholarship from the Huntington
Hartford Foundation. The secluded art colony in the mountains near Pacific Palisades had been
established in 1948 and was an important part of the Los Angeles scene for almost twenty years.
Although Huntington Hartford was to
turn against extreme modernism, he was
appreciative of Bizinsky’s post-impres-
sionist and always considered him to be
a leading American painter.
When Bizinsky married in 1952, he
chose to make Southern California his
permanent home. He and his wife, the
former Eleanor Anita Guggenheim,
settled in Brentwood where Bizinsky
devoted himself to painting, teaching,
and traveling extensively in Mexico,
Central and South American, and the
United States where his established habit
of sketching the local terrain deepened
his love of landscape painting. He
frequently exhibited in the community
and in the wider Southern California
area, and he was pressed into service
as a lecturer and juror. Bizinsky was
also the guiding light of the Westwood Art Association during its early, active days when commercial
galleries presenting Los Angeles artists were practically nonexistent; he served as its President in 1955.
Accustomed to the lively ateliers and sophisticated talk of Paris, Bizinsky found 1950s
Los Angeles to be unsympathetic both to non-European modernism and to local talent of all
persuasions. But as the 1960’s exploded to make of Los Angeles a true art center, he found himself
situated between the older generation of pioneering Hard Edge abstractionists and the brash, new
generation of assemblagists, Pop artists, and home grown Surrealists whose explorations appeared
superficial to him. Thus Bizinsky chose to teach privately in his Brentwood studio to avoid the
19
exigencies of the commercial gallery situation and to give independent showings of his work to the
many appreciative collectors of his landscapes, seascapes and figural groups. His Paris training gave
Bizinsky a firm grounding in the academic basics and left him unmoved by what he called
c
ontemporary “fads”. As a mature painter and high respected teacher, Bizinsky’s well-expressed
esthetic credo harks back to a fauvist heritage: To me a good painting is one that is a complete
statement of the personal lyricism of the highly developed individual who is able to feel and see that
which is around him and able to put it into paint so vividly that it reaches a high peak and sustains
itself instead of being sustained by outside forces.
1
Certainly too, Bizinsky’s personal courage was
immense. When a laryngectomy robbed him of his speech in 1969, he refused to stop working:
painting was the solace and the vehicle of recovery. He searched to “discover all the possible
harmonies . . . trying to arrive at a psychophysical state of equilibrium.”
1
When death came in 1982,
Bizinsky left behind an impressive oeuvre that reflects this harmony and equilibrium.
Besides the oil paintings there is an extensive group of drawings, watercolors and pastels from
both the Paris and the Los Angeles periods. Drawings employing a sensitive and tender line contrast
with occasional essays in cubist fracture and bold energy. A large compilation of lively, intensely
human pen-and-ink sketches is of particular interest; they are on-the-spot creations of the army artist
at work in England, North Africa and
the Mid-East. Most notable is a series
of sketches depicting soldiers at their
daily activities during a dangerous
early crossing of the Queen Mary in
1942.
But finally it is Bizinsky’s
painting that impresses with its
sincere feeling, its coloristic verve and
(in the case of the 1951-82) work) its
secure place in the distinguished
California landscape tradition. The
artist is revealed as an expressive
naturalist who chose to sidestep
the more extreme developments of
post-1945. Transcending the merely
regional, he fused a solid School of
Paris training with a highly personal
response to locality. The independent
path of Robert Bizinsky achieved a
lyrical post-impressionist vision that
continues to reward contemplation.
1) Robert Bizinsky. All quotations, unless
otherwise indicate in text, are Bizinsky’s. Source
material is located in the Bizinsky Papers, Brentwood.
2) Ossip Zadkine, in John Stanton,
“The New Expatriates”, Life 22 Aug. 1949, p. 87
.
20
8. Walking Her Dog
oil on canvas, 18 x 24.
22
9. Summer Day in the Park
oil on canvas, 18 x 24.
10. Cafe duVal, Rue de Banlieue
oil on canvas, 20 x 24.
25
Bizinsky is an ardent colorist and a tender
observer of our streets and way of life
— Maximilien Gauthier, Les Noubelles Littéraires, 1949
26
11. Montmartre-Moulin de la Galette
oil on canvas , 24 x 20.
12. Couple on a Park Bench
oil on canvas, 18 x 24.
29
“. . .you can put this down and sign it Zadkine:
There are boys here now that the States are going
to hear of Paul England and Kenneth Noland
and Robert Bizinsky”
— Ossip Zadkine, 1949
30
13. Plowing a Field
oil on canvas, 24 x 18.
14. Dome Tobac
oil on canvas, 24 x 18.
33
“Bizinsky has a sense of light and space
he translates Brittany scenes into his
spacious language and his Paris
landscapes have the American clearness”.
Barnett D. Conlan, Continental Daily Mail 1948
15. A Brilliant Spring Day
oil on canvas, 21 x 31.
16. Bird's Eye View, South of France
oil on canvas, 24 x 18.
37
38
17. Cafe de Paris, Provincial Town
oil on canvas, 18 x 24.
“We will admire the courage so rare of
a painter who is willing to listen only
to himself”
Philippe Soupault, 1949
18. Strolling Parisians
oil on canvas, 20 x 23.
41
42
“Great natural ability and is
endowed with a splendid imagination”
— Frank Vincent Dumond. Art Students League, New York – 1946.
19. A Couple at a Fountain, Paris
oil on canvas, 18 x 24.
20. Paris Book Stalls
oil on canvas, 18 x 24.
45
46
“I have not only enjoyed seeing
Mr. Bizinsky’s paintings but have been
most interested by them. I hope that you
will on no account abandon this noble
profession”
Ambassador to France, David E.K. Bruce, 1949.
21. Jardin de Montmatre
oil on canvas, 18 x 24.
22. Au Vieux
oil on canvas, 18 x 24.
49
50
“Bizinsky has beautiful qualities, a
fresh touch, a solid way of painting
which warrants the attention of all
the collectors"
Jean Bouret Les Arts, June, 1949
23. Book stalls along the Seine
oil on canvas, 24 x 15.
24. Cafe Terrace, Montmartre
oil on canvas, 18 x 22.
53
“Robert Bizinsky is one of the finest
young artists of our time”
Atlanta Constitution
54
“Bizinsky, whose recent landscape
exhibition at Galerie Castelucho drew top
praise from Paris Art Critics”
— LIFE, August, 1949
25. Luxemborg Gardens
oil on canvas, 18 x 24.
26. Place du Tertre, Montmartre
oil on canvas, 18 x 24.
57
“All of his work bears a distinguishable
temperament”
— John Devouly, New York Herald Tribune, Paris Edition, 1949
58
27. Early Spring in Paris
oil on canvas, 20 x 24.
28. Booksellers on the Quay
oil on canvas, 18 x 24.
61
“Robert Bizinsky’s work has a quality which
stimulates greatly. I can only describe it as a
communication of delight. He can make you share his
appetite for a scene, so that you wish you could eat it.
Looking at his paintings of the South of France, I think:
Thats how those houses, that waterfront seemed to me
when I first saw them, as a young man. Or at any rate,
how they ought to have seemed to me. I suppose Bizinsky
gets this effect by his highly evocative use of color. But be-
hind the brightness, there is something more mysterious
and sophisticated, something that suggests the richness of
classical Persian art. I should like to live with such
pictures. Because then I know, I should be able to live
inside them. They can be entered.”
Christopher Isherwood, 1951
62
29. Rowboat on the Lake, Bois de Boulogne
oil on canvas, 18 x 24.
30. Vineyard
oil on canvas, 20 x 24.
“I am deeply impressed by the pictures
and comment” - “And certainly the
material deserves public attention
and approval”.
Edward L. Bernays
Musee Du Louvre and the Seine, Paris
Fountain St. Paul de Vence
Walking Her Dog
Cafe duVal Rue de Banlieue
Sacre-Coeur from the rue de Montmarte
Outdoor Cafe
Across from a Cafe, Paris
Summer Day in the Park
Montmartre-Moulin de la Galette
Plowing a Field
Woman and Child, Tuileries Gardens
Couple on a Park Bench
South of France
Strolling Parisians
Paris Book Stalls
Au Vieux
A Brilliant Spring Day
Cafe de Paris
A Couple at a Fountain, Paris
Jardin de Montmatre
Bookstalls along the Seine
Luxemborg Gardens
Dome Tobac
Cafe Terrace, Montmartre
Place du Tertre, Montmartre
Vineyard
Red Roofs, South of France
Cultivated Gardens and Village
Woman and Child on Park Bench
Rowboat on the Lake, Bois de Boulogne
St. Paul de Vence
Harbor in Brittany
Gardens South of France
Two Fishing Boats in Harbor, Brittany
French Harbor
Early Spring in Paris
Booksellers on the Quay
Village, South of France
The Blue Umbrella
Village, South of France
Town and Church
Men at Work at the Harbor
A Village Church
A la Ville de Paris
A View to a Church
Nude Woman and Child in a Park
Two Men on the Quay Overlooking
A Harbor
Harbor Scene
Afternoon in the Park
Harbor Scene, Brittany
Place Furstenburg
Luxembourg Gardens
Rue Boule
Ile de la Cite, Paris
Along the Seine
Street Corner in Paris
Bridge on the Seine
Sacre Coeur, Montmarte
A Suburb of Paris
Artist at Work, Place du Tertre
Two Women on a Corner, Paris
St Germain des Pres
Busy Street
Small Square, Paris
Quais of the Seine
Bois de Boulogne
Crossing a Paris Street
Early Evening in the Park
Tuileries Gardens
Activities in the Park
Outdoor Cafe
Woman and Child on a Path
Hotel de Sens, Paris
Cafe-Restaurant, Montmartre
Place du Tertre, Sacre Coeur
Du Pothius Pontoise
Cafe-Restaurant, Montmartre,
Winter,
Footbridge over a Venetian Canal
Bridge Near the Tiber
On The Way to Church
Street Scene
Blue Gondola and Bridge, Venice
Venice, View of St. Mark’s
Red and Yellow Umbrellas
Houses Along a River
Summer Fields
Outdoor Cafe
Champs de Mars and the Eiffel Tower
The Red Umbrella, Venice
Park Scene
Working in a Field
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