Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Interview with Israel Hershberg

February 1, 2011 by  
Filed under Featured Interviews

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Israel Hershberg
Israel Hershberg, photo by Gil baruch Shani


Israel Hershberg was born in 1948 in a Displaced Persons camp in Linz, Austria. In 1949 he emigrated to Israel with his family and in 1958 moved with them to the United States, where he attended the Brooklyn Museum School in New York. He received his Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, and his M.F.A. from the State University of New York in Albany. He then taught at the Maryland Institute College of Art and the New York Academy of Art. His awards include: the Sandberg prize for Israel Art, 1991; and the Tel-Aviv Museum Prize for Israel Art, 1997. His work has been exhibited in museums and galleries internationally. He is currently represented by the Marlborough Gallery in NYC, which is widely recognized as one of the worlds leading contemporary art dealers. Mr. Hershberg lives and works in Jerusalem and is founder and artistic director of the Jerusalem Studio School.


I was fortunate to meet Israel Hershberg this past summer during the Jerusalem Studio School’s Master Class in Italy and asked him if he might agree to an interview here at Painting Perceptions, I was delighted when he agreed. We talked via skype and then had the conversation transcribed. It was further edited by Israel Hershberg for greater clarity.


Larry Groff First of all, I just want to say thank you very much for taking time out of your busy schedule to do this interview with me. A lot of people will be able to read this interview and get a great deal of inspiration and information out of it, so I appreciate it, and thanks again.

My first question is about your early education as a painter. Was there anything that stands out as a pivotal moment that helped shape who you are today as a painter? Anything that would be of note for someone starting out now?


Israel Hershberg “Now” is a huge conversation. I don’t know that we can touch on all the modalities of the “now”‘ but perhaps we can touch on some of them down the line.

I started fairly early. I actually started to study at the Brooklyn Museum Art School while still in high school. Before that, I just drew all the time. I mean, I loved  to draw – it was how I spent big portions of my time as a kid and living in New York as I did then provided me with great formative examples of art from antiquity and right up to the present. In addition New York provided some truly singular opportunities to actually meet practicing artists whose work I admired.

As luck would have it, the public high school I attended was for some reason endowed with a relatively sophisticated art department. It was a new school and I was in the first graduating class. It [the art department] even had its own printmaking studio, which was very unusual. I didn’t know of too many high schools that had anything like that, with the exception of these magnet schools like the High School of Music and Art or Art and Design, I guess is what they call them in the States today.

We had an outstanding art department head at this school who brought in teachers fresh out of Pratt, Cooper, SVA and Parsons and for high school seemed to me a cut above art teachers entering public education at that level. They were more than encouraging – I’d say they were intimately involved with my early aspirations to be an artist and I have a great fondness for them to this day.

It was the chairman of that high school art department who told me about the Alliance of Figurative Artists – a meeting of painters and sculptors that gathered every Friday night at the Educational Alliance on East Broadway. That was back in 1967.

These meetings had their start in Al Leslie’s studio and when interest and attendance burgeoned it all moved to the Educational Alliance, as oral tradition would have it.

I was young at the time, around 17, to be attending these meetings but found them incredibly stimulating – everyone there spoke their minds in the most uninhibited terms, you know, there were none of the PC sterilities of public or academic discourse we see today. To me it felt like an art nerd’s equivalent of making the rugby team; very rough and tumble. The atmosphere was always charged and combative with passions really  out in the frontmost plane and quite often spilling over the top. The older artists who held sway there were some very serious and established personages. Some I greatly admired then and some I do to this day. I was engrossed by these meetings and at times even thrilled to see and hear them go at it full tilt…

(click for larger view – true for all the images in this article)
“Cow’s Tongue #74″ 1987-1988. Oil on linen, 152.8 x 105 cm Collection: Israel Museum, Jerusalem Israel

LG What kind of battles? What were they arguing about?

IH I don’t know whether you got to read the foreward I recently wrote for the Prince Street Gallery’s 40th anniversary catalog, but I describe there some of  the battle lines drawn – and in general this recounting makes for a bit of very formative personal history.

The big divide was roughly made up of followers of Paul Georges and those of Gabriel Laderman, who I think defined the clearest polarities along that divide. And though there were almost always well considered themes assigned to an evening’s proceedings, invariably the recurring sub-theme that popped its head with the most persistence revolved around the virtues of a “loose” or expressionistic approach toward representation vs. a more slow, formally restrained or tempered pictorial approach. I admit to not remembering why that distinction was so important then but the content discussed seemed less compelling at times than the expressions of passionate conviction and the holding forth of artists like Paul Georges, Lennart Anderson, Louis Finkelstein, Rosemarie Beck, William Bailey, Phillip Pearlstein, Aristodemus Kaldis, Gabriel Laderman, Paul Resika, or Leland Bell. Not a one of them was dull and not a one of them to my delight, particularly “open-minded”. It made for great pyrotechnics!

For a young fellow with artistic ambitions, this was was a treasure trove and it went a long way in shaping what I think to this day. I was like a sponge, open, but my personal biases, my inclinations lay more with an artist like Lennart Anderson who did not attend these meetings on any regular basis. I remember perceiving this to be a kind of admirable aloofness on his part. And never will I forget an early retrospective of Lennart’s at Bard College. It  was pivotal and shaped my aspirations as a painter deeply.

The Alliance experience I think, went a long way in carving out a position or posture, a mentality, perhaps an ethic that I identified with intensely at this early stage in life, and I was absolutely astounded that the other art students at Pratt, which I attended after high school, arrived with no such thing!

And very pivotal: One of my teachers and dear friend to this day at the Brooklyn Museum School, Francis (Dick) Cunningham, had studied with Edwin Dickinson, an artist whose paintings and drawings really worked my eyes up into a hunger. I’d go look at his work whenever I could and my admiration for it has never waned. I told Dick of my plans to spend time in Wellfleet on Cape Cod with the stated desire of meeting Dickinson. I expected a meeting like this would be somewhat complicated to negotiate, but Dick deftly set it up and at a blink of an eye I set off to Wellfleet.

I did that for a number of summers. I would go there, I’d paint outdoors mostly, sometimes near and around the salt marsh his gray shingle house occupied the edge of, and I’d show him my work. We’d walk to the small studio up the sand dune near the house and we’d talk. I loved that studio! It was full of the objects I recognized from his paintings and drawings. There was also work of his in that room I’d never seen before – I was completely bowled over! He was already quite old and at times he’d drift in and out of coherent conversation but on the whole there was still the impression of a clarity and authority that came from the rigors of a lifetime’s experience, the single-minded pursuit of the art of painting.  I understood well the auspiciousness of these moments, knew they’d be enshrined in my consciousness as fortuitous and rare. You can bet on it, what receptivity I had was turned way up to full volume. Dickinson was very much a gentleman of another era, charming, dapper, self-conscious, and authentically the strangest human being I’d meet to this day.

“Clupea Sprattus” 1992. Oil on paper mounted on board, 63.2 x 64.7 cm

So back to Pratt. On my first day there I sensed immediately what lay in store. I insisted on being part of the group that was assigned to Lennart Anderson’s life drawing class. That class was my sole comfort in what turned out to be a very irritating four year stint. Look, I just wanted to paint and draw but you know how art colleges are. You couldn’t even do that then! They put you with industrial design faculty for something they called “3D design”. And if that was not enough, there was also “2D design”. It was Bauhaus trying to get into my house – it was just awful. The rest with the exception of allies I managed to make from among the faculty, you know, exceptionally sympathetic and protective adjuncts, these fine abstract painters like Ernie Briggs, Ed Dugmore and James Gahagan – it was all a dull, dull affair. Ed, Jim and Ernie just allowed me to paint at home. One learned very quickly that the adjuncts were for the most part the ones you wanted to hang with, they were the serious artists, and the full-timers, just academics, rather unexceptional artists frankly, who cared mostly about clawing their way up in the system to power, tenure or both. Amazing what faculty exhibitions can reveal…

My experience teaching for ten years at a similarly inclined Baltimore art college somewhat later, just confirmed this early view by hitting it right out of the ball park.

Well, OK, so much for that. I was living in New York, made it my job to just see as much art in museums and galleries as possible, and traveled abroad to the extent that I could afford it.

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22 Responses to “Interview with Israel Hershberg”
  1. Thank you so much Larry for this interview… Israel is one of the artists I most admire in the world.

  2. Austin says:

    Nice interview. But I wholeheartedly disagree with Mr. Hershberg’s response to your question on self-study and find it paradoxically anti-student and obfuscating. He seems to suggest that the role of an art educator is simply the dissemination of sadly archaic trade-secrets to mindless, indiscriminate vessels. Be independent discovery impossible or not (or just difficult) I should hope that an educator would be more concerned with the strength of the desire for education rather than the manner by which it is obtained. I think Cezanne’s axiom on nature and the Louvre is a perfect truth. Not everyone needs to explore them via an institutional proxy, or for that matter has the resources to pay the tab. The precedent is far, far greater than simply Courbet nor is it an either/or proposition or rendered lately and uniquely obsolete. Far from it. Nevertheless, I know alumni and am convinced The Studio School is one of the finest programs out there. Thanks for the interesting read.

    • Larry says:

      Thanks for your comment Austin and I’m happy you enjoyed the interview. I’m somewhat on the fence about the issue of whether one can learn painting from self-study or not. On one hand there are painters whose formal training is minimal at best and still are able to paint masterful works. Perhaps not the best example but Fairfield Porter was largely self-trained. He did study at Harvard but to my knowledge didn’t really study under the tutelage of a “master” in a studio setting – he learned it more from looking at and deeply thinking about great art. There are also many other painters who explore more imaginary, expressionistic and abstract subjects that have great power and appeal despite limited study in academic settings (I can’t think of names right off hand but I know they are out there)

      That said, I think many painters who want to study realist, perceptual painting will likely get far greater benefit from studying under a “master” than on their own. I’m sure with enough dedication and perseverance someone could learn to paint realistically from workshops, books and dvds but will they also get an understanding on why to make a painting as well as how? My limited experience in the world of workshops, dvd’s and the like is that they tend to be commercially driven and tend to focus on techniques like how to paint a tree, head or bottle and little to do with all the other trees, heads and bottles painted over the past 2000 years. However, I think it all boils down to the student and the teacher themselves. Naturally, some teachers, despite being great painters are terrible at teaching and of course vice-versa. Some students would do much better on their own than with a teacher in terms of finding their unique voice. Other students need guidance and give up on their own.

      Perhaps what Israel was thinking more about with this issue is the seeming increased prevalence of people learning on their own these days, as seen in online venues. The often saddening display of self-taught hobbyist landscape painters who proudly display their blue-ribboned county fair paintings and who use the leveling power of the internet to market themselves as great artists…

  3. Nice read….I’ve seen a few pieces of his work in person and he’s a really strong painter who is obviously bubbling over with intensity. I found the remarks on kitschy landscape paintings and sentimentality very relevant to my pursuits, and enjoyed his thoughts on the Degas painting. I sure you learned a lot from him this summer Larry…thanks

  4. Terrific piece Larry, one of the most interesting things I’ve read in some time – like Francis, I found the comments on the picturesque and beauty, Kitsch and sentimentality very relevant to my ‘practice’ (I admit I’ve toyed with the idea of paintings of Provençal malls, and wrecking yards!). I love that description of students turning their work around and starting to describe what they are attemting to do — guilty

  5. Chris Hargens says:

    Great interview. I appreciate the fact that Israel Hershberg speaks his mind. I also disagree, however, with his view that one cannot truly learn to paint through self-study. To be sure, hands-on study with a master the student painter wishes to emulate is probably the surest and quickest path to acquiring the requisite skill and sensitivity to create true art; however, in view of the multitude of books, workshops, galleries, and museums available to aspiring painters, I can’t help but believe that a determined student could also make his way to mastery.

  6. As far as the discussion on self-study versus studying ‘under’ someone, I’d say it’s probably best to have a mixture of both. I agree that there are exceptions, artists who have found their way through studying great works in museums and following books (and now we can add video, workshops, seminars, etc..) but some of the best moments in my learning process is when a teacher took my pencil while drawing perspective and corrected the lines in the margin, or showed me how to mix the color I was trying to achieve, grabbing the brush out of my hand and showing me right in front of my eyes. You also get a certain ‘energy’ from being in the presence of an engaging and intense artist (like Israel), which sort of rubs off on you…it becomes more than just the sum of the parts of information they are disseminating. Of course that all has to be followed up by the self-study…copying great works, visiting museums, reading, looking, and above all, painting and drawing a hell of a lot.

  7. Dean Fisher says:

    Just what the art world needs; A profound, fearless voice of reason and beautiful artwork.
    Thank you Israel and Larry!

  8. jade olson says:

    Hi Larry, I keep thinking about this interview. it is dense. I fear it comes off as somewhat elitist and very discouraging if one is not from a traditional art background. There is nothing like spending four years immersed in art study. and there is nothing like studying alongside a great artist, watching them demonstrate, or mix a color for you, etc. The two may not be mutually exclusive, and there are many ways to find such an experience if one is motivated. workshops may be short, but I do believe they are worth doing for many reasons, exposure to new ideas, to associate with peers, perhaps learn something. Even Certosa offered a two-week option.

    I think all the commenters here have said it better than me. I just walked away feeling really discouraged, which I know was not his intention.

    also, I want to say that there have always been hobby painters. there have always been folks who think that the person painting the most detailed scene is the greatest artist; folks who think their 5-year-old is a great artist!, etc. I think we just see more of it because we now have the internet. it is not a threat. just as there are many people in the world who think that a shark suspended in formaldehyde is somehow great art. they are not a threat. Non-artists are generally under the impression that they do not understand what art really is, and I would be more inclined to blame the Hirsts out there, more than hobby/internet artists. The example given where the English professor took over an art department — I dont think we can blame the internet!

    *sigh* maybe I will get to Certosa one summer.

    • larry says:

      Jade, As much as I normally abhor elitism, my experience is that the arts is one place where elitism (not sure that’s the best word) makes sense. We are not all above-average painters! To truly excel at our craft, so that you begin to approach the vicinity of greatness that you find in such painters as Antonio Lopez Garcia or Israel Hershberg, for instance, requires a level of skill, training and dedication that would be very difficult to get through self-study alone. It isn’t just about learning technique – it is also learning the ART, the tradition, the aesthetics, the poetry, the critical thinking and the intensity of commitment. These things are hard to get without the day to day close interaction with a mentor in a group setting. Of course you could be in such a setting and still not get that much out of it – which is perhaps all too common, but having a really good teacher in a good school or program will make a very big difference and go far beyond what you can just get from a few workshops, dvds and books. I think you can learn to paint through those means but to truly master the craft of painting, you need to immerse yourself in it full-time over a long period. However, I’m not convinced that you have to go to college or an art school (sometimes these places do more harm than good) but I do think most people will do best with some sort of mentor who is a master of his/her art.

      Despite all of what I’ve said, I still think that learning to paint is still largely learning to become your own teacher. Ultimately you learn it all on your own. But, like learning to play the piano, you can take “lessons” online I’m sure, read books, even study with a teacher for awhile. But if you want to become really good you will need to practice 6-8 hours a day for years and even then you will benefit greatly from having a mentor who is a master. Of course this is if you want to become a concert pianist and not just playing the piano at a bar or for friends. Of course there are always exceptions – prodigies and geniuses.

      Bruce, There is a great interview with Fairfield Porter, where he talks about his education at length. I agree completely with what you are saying in your comment.
      here is a link…. http://www.aaa.si.edu/collections/interviews/oral-history-interview-fairfield-porter-12873

  9. Bruce says:

    LARRY (Porter – never studied with anyone? I don’t know if it true or not.. but Porter was surrounded by painters and knew many closely… the formal study might not have happened but he certianly showed his paintings to his friends and studied their work methods. He got more from them then we know)
    And to those who want the quick way——Your kidding yourselves if you think a video, book and a little workshop will make you a painter. That said, that got nothing to do with talking lots of people into thinking your a great genius!
    Lennart Anderson told me something like “it is time in front of the easel that will teach you …”
    but that was after years of study. Painters Paint….but they need training.. it is hard to know how to paint and then maybe harder to know what to paint. No coincidence that so many real painters came from Hoffmann.

  10. Bruce says:

    Thank you Larry-
    I wish I said it as well as you…. I’ll check out the Porter link…
    . I’m so glad I.H. turned me on to this site

  11. Valentino says:

    I truly respect Israel Hershberg. His views and opinions are sincere, based on both thorough knowledge and rich experience. We share many views on art in general and representative art in particular.
    However, I can not help posing here a sort of academic question, something which I always ponder upon reading an interesting statement or thought provoking interview with some artist. Can one (*) feel the „ideology“ (**) of an artist, the views and artistic beliefs by looking at his/her artworks? Do those pieces work in such a way on a visual level, without the need to resort to verbal crutches?

    In this particular case I wonder if it can be felt in these beautiful Hershberg’s paintings.

    Let me say it this way: imagine you are being presented with a dozen of paintings without knowing its authors. Half of those (still lives, cityscapes/landscapes etc…) from IH and the other half (with similar subjects) from some skilled painter who studied at atelier of say – Jacob Collins, Nelson Shanks, Jeffrey Mims, Florence Academy of Art…you know what I mean. Could you tell the difference in approach? Could you feel formula and sentiment behind XY’s „View of the Valley“ or „The Dish and Onions on the Table“ and sincerity and 21st century mind of, say, Mr. Hershberg or his students..? After all, JSS has very similar curriculum to majority of ateliers: “drawing and painting with emphasis on perception and the human form, copying the casts” etc.
    For the record – I am not being ironic here, nor am I trying to defend atelier system or attack people like IH, Antonio Lopez, Burton Silverman (whom I all admire) and their likes.

    I am genuinely interested in this, as I think it is an important issue.
    One’s mind by definition should be felt in his/her work, since a painting – intentionally or not – always reflect the attitude(s) of its author.
    (Otherwise, besides other things, art criticism would be impossible and pointless.)

    (*) say – average educated person who has affinity towards art
    (**) for lack of better term – English is not my mother tongue

    • Larry says:

      Thanks for your comment Valentino. I was hoping someone else might jump in to respond to your comment, sorry to have taken so long to respond.

      Of course any observant and knowledgeable painter or art viewer could easily see big differences between the styles, intent and overall attitudes and aesthetics of these painters you mention. But your question seems to be more about why is Israel Hershberg’s approach to teaching so different from ateliers who also have students train from casts and other traditional and academic means of learning representational painting.

      I’m probably not the best person to answer, but my understanding is that the JSS looks to very different painters and philosophies than most ateliers. Of course they both study from casts, copy from master works and similar things but how and why they study the casts are likely to differ greatly.

      My understanding is that ateliers such as Florence Academy of Art and similar who often emulate more French 19th century type academic training and look to painters like Bouguereau, Sargent or their particular atelier’s master/leader for inspiration and emulation. The JSS instead looks to painters like Piero, Titian, Velázquez, Corot and Ingress and also embraces a more modernist aesthetic and study painters like Morandi, Franz Kline, Philip Guston, etc.

      They really couldn’t be more different. I don’t have enough time here to get into a very complicated and probably very contentious debate. Perhaps someone else will feel inspired to toss in their .02. Israel made a very strong statement about contemporary academic painting in the interview – this is probably more the central issue we’re dancing around here. I’d love to get into it more – with a raging debate but I need help and more time!

  12. bruce says:

    Sorry I’m late to the party Larry, I would have loved to jump in first, although albeit not as article as you all. English is my first language, Valentine, but I must have skipped school that day… Boy you did fine.
    Here goes… There are so many artists…. and Those guys, although I hate to admit it, sure can paint! Holy crap! Thank goodness they have taste up their ass. Otherwise it would be hopeless….I ‘d give up painting. I’m obviously joking, sort of. There is a big difference. The difference is taste. Roy Lichenstien said, “if your mother likes it your doing something wrong..” Maybe he took that from somebody else but Ironically I used to gauge what I was doing by my dad and neighbors response…
    I once went to Mexico and saw a place they made paintings to ship to every Mall, frame shop and starving artist auctions on the plant. A few guys stretched and primed, one guy slapped in a sky, another clouds.. this one guy was the hero of the joint, cause here could whip out some of the coolest (by Mexican factory standards) looking ducks and deers. They were paintings on canvas and sold more then I will ever..They were art by grandma sofa standards. Ok this guys are a hell of a lot more together then that… I wish I could do what they do… but its missing so much… personality. THEIRS! for one. They fall short on feeling, . they do not even have the decency to be devoid of feeling.In a cool hip way that is truley about honesty, sincerity.. Color can’t hurt!!! Something in the 20th century must have been worth thinking about. Looking at . Hoffmann taught an eclectic taste. Piero Giotto Rembrandt, Picasso…. V. I am giving you a quick but honest answer and in no way to I mean any unkindness… Maybe art is about self..or selflessness…. not an easy thing.. The temple at Delphi( I want to be real smart here but….not in the cards) The TEMPLE AT DELPHI, after all ,did not say , KNOW THY OTHER GUY! Totally – self consciousness, aspriations to paint like the painting my mother would buy at the mall for her sofa…….yuck! I feel much better now….thank you for the opportunity.

  13. bruce says:

    I have to apologize for my grammar and spelling..and my ranting….. I was passing by my computer and was chomping at the bit when I read the post…..also perhaps I should take a longer look at these paintings. (not too long)….or at least see them in real life before beating them up so bad.

  14. Neil Plotkin says:

    Great interview again Larry! Thank you and of course thank you Mr. Hershberg.

    Just to jump in a bit about Larry’s comments about the different approach to painting in the ateliers vs. JSS. I have known so many people who run ateliers or who have studied in them or teach based upon them and I always found them to be so depressing and dead end. That is because they tend to be so backwards looking – Larry used the word “emulate”- and that’s just it. They approach painting as a lost art that if we could only get back to where Bougereau was we’d fix this art world that’s gone off the tracks. It’s as if painting has died and nothing has happened since the 19th century. And to dismiss all the fantastic painters of the 20th century and not build on them is just silly. It sounds like the JSS school teaches all of painting – learn the techniques: drawing, mixing correctly, and look at ALL of the history of painting – the abstract expressionists did as much interesting work as did the Dutch in their Golden Age.

    I do think that most successful artists are self-taught in that they pick and choose what to keep from their different instructors. I was talking with Wade Schuman (head of the NYAA painting program) and he said that the people who are serious will succeed one way or another (though this was in the context of graduate schools). It’s just whether they are making the paintings that they themselves feel are successful. I just saw the poet/painters show at Tibor de Nagy – the Porters are beautiful – and have been looking at Albert York. These two painters don’t deal with the technical aspects that the Lopez-Garcia or Israel Hershberg deal with but the paintings – like Morandi – are incredibly beautiful in a different way. I suspect that is why Hershberg teaches using great painters that do other things than emulate great technicians of the 19th century. Stuart Shils also teaches this way and it’s so much more open ended and interesting.

  15. Jeff says:

    First off I have to say thank you Larry for doing these wonderful interviews with some of my favorite painters.
    My two cents worth on the education of painters, well if you can’t draw painting realism will be a difficult hill to climb. There are exceptions, but in my view one can move a lot faster if they find a good drawing teacher. I suppose one could learn from copying, but there is a nothing like having a good teacher to break away your conventions and bad habits. Life is short, why waste time with your ego in this regard.

  16. alex kantor says:

    I wholeheartedly agree with everything IH has stated here and admire him, enormously, for his candor.
    I have reread this interview several times now and am tempted to send a link to it to every pseudo classical atelier on earth (but they are cropping up so quickly that that might be a near impossibility).
    The reason they are cropping up so quickly is because after a determinedly blinkered student of any such atelier has done their stretch of time painting figurines of aphrodite in a lightbox they have no alternative but to convert their garage in North Dakota into their own atelier in order to make a living without having to face reality or resuscitate their aesthetic.
    It is an appalling situation and I am very glad that IH has come out and stated with such care and insight the fact that it is a dead religion for hacks and sentimental saps and definitely not the revival of a great lost tradition that it suckers people, many sincere and talented, into believing it is.
    His comments on how official academia is even worse (placing the cart before the horse, whereas ateliers, small in number, stupidly place the cart before a slavish copy of a George Stubbs) is also right on and really does sum up what is a depressing situation for anyone with enough experience to look, with a sense of loss, at the direction that painting is headed in as a result of the state of ruin of most training establishments.
    I was fortunate to receive my training from some old timers in Philadelphia and New York some years ago and there was never a sense of a broken tradition from Degas to Dickinson and the present (nor the artists that Degas and Dickinson studied in depth, like Mantegna, El Greco, etc.).
    Somewhere along the line Jacob Collins (an English major at Columbia I believe) decided that he could formulate an erroneous improvisation of didactic step-by-step painting in order to ape a degraded pastiche of Arts L’art pompier of the most pedestrian order and then set up shop selling this unbelievably restricted method to the kinds of nervous and frightened art students who always minor in conservation studies to play it safe.
    The internet has made all of this like a pestilence with so much shameless self aggrandizing and circle jerking lackeys chiming in about how they are so glad that art is finally measurable and something that certain wealthy idiots feel reassured about collecting again.
    To the people who felt discouraged by what IH said regarding self instruction, that is too bad.
    It does take sacrifice and courage and if you claim that you simply don’t have the cash to attend to real study then you obviously are either confused about what the life of a student is like or you are just making convenient excuses for being a dilettante.
    It’s okay, frankly this kind of painting isn’t for everyone. In fact, few people I know who are painting full time think that anyone would really want to trade places with them if they knew what it has cost.
    Thank god that there are still men like IH around and that he is healthy and teaching and sharing these things with people.
    I really needed to hear his voice of reason.

  17. Noel Robbins says:

    This coming summer I am hoping to make it to Civita Castellana to study with Mr. Hershberg. I did not know about this incredible artist and teacher until reading about the JSS on this life-changing blog – Thank you Larry for everything you are doing – You are one of my personal heroes. Anyway, I just read the interview with Mr. Hershberg and I feel compelled to share some of my thoughts in response even though so much time has passed since the original posting.

    I am an adjunct professor of painting and drawing at Austin Community College in Texas where paintings and education of the magnitude displayed by Hershberg, Anderson, Dickenson and Hawthorne is scarce to non-existent. In my years of study and teaching I can say that everything Mr. Hershberg said about our current institutions of art is spot on. I have watched several artist’s careers decline over the past two decades after being given tenure. I have also watched artists commercially driven succeed for a while in particular galleries to only be dropped once their work fell out of favor. I am absolutely certain that those of us who continue to paint and learn about painting our whole lives are the lucky ones. Never so certain that we can ever really articulate the mystery that painting has brought into our lives we continue to learn from the colored goo that we smear with hairy sticks and knives and we share our experiences with fellows bitten by this bug. Whether from people sharing our actual space, videos or books our search for a semblance of an understanding of what painting is continues fueled by the “hunger of the eye.” While we can learn about all the techniques of painting and their historical and theoretical contexts it is in the realm of the philosophical that great teachers like Hershberg and Anderson shine. I have never met Mr. Anderson but I have learned through Larry’s wonderful work on this blog about what he calls “qualities.” I’ve linked to wonderful painters who studied with him like David Marshall, Lucy Barber and Diana Horowitz and understand what he means when he says this. I have watched your paintings change Larry due to your study with Hershberg and Anderson, and you have been making some absolutely beautiful pieces my friend. Anyway, what I trying to say is that the techniques are only a small part of what art education is about. More importantly is the gift of painting as a path to understanding relationships between people and the world. Perceptual painting is revelatory. It doesn’t matter if you use dead-coloring under glazes or go for fast gestural facture. Everything is an option in painting. To concern ourselves with technique and whether it is learned in person or via Youtube is to misunderstand completely the gospel of perceptual painting that is being offered to us by these incredible masters.

    If anyone has information on grants for artists/teachers to study with great artists like Hershberg please send me links or phone numbers. My email address is artistnoelrobbins@gmail.com

    Thank you so much Larry and Mr. Hershberg for everything you have done and continue to do. I hope to one day meet you both in person. I feel like I know you already.


    • Larry says:

      Thank you Noel for your kind words. That’s great news that you’re considering joining us in Civita next summer. Despite my many years of experience and school, there was much I learned about ways to improve my painting. My experience studying with Israel Hershberg in Civita was an incredible experience – truly a life-changing event. I can’t recommend their program highly enough. I’ll send you more info by email soon and I’m planning a long article about the Civita program at some point in the near future.

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