Thursday, November 26, 2015

Jerome Witkin

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Jerome Witkin January 2006 (photo from a flickr Syracuse University PhotoStream)


Painting Perceptions is incredibly fortunate to have talked at length with Jerome Witkin recently, thanks to Bill Murphy, who suggested the idea of an interview and helped me get in touch with Mr. Witkin. I’d again like to express my gratitude to Professor Witkin who was so incredibly generous to give up so much time to do this interview; sharing his rich experiences as well as discussing his current work, life and concerns. In addition to the text and images I have also made an audio podcast available so you can also listen to the interview, click on the podcast button at the end of the article.


Jerome Witkin was born in 1939 in Brooklyn, NY to a Jewish father and a Roman Catholic mother and has an identical twin brother, the renowned photographer, Joel Peter Witkin. His art talent’s blossomed early, winning art prizes and scholarships that allowed him to live and travel in Europe and who would meet and get know such leading painters such as Ben Shahn, Isabel Bishop, Giorgio Morandi, Jack Levine, Philip Guston, Willem deKooning, Alice Neel and many other important painters such as R.B. Kitaj – who is reported to have cited Witkin as “the greatest figurative painter in America.” Art historian Donald Kuspit, called Witkin’s works “dreams in the grand visionary manner of the Old Masters” . . . painted with the rhapsodic abandon of pure sensation . . . unequivocal masterpieces.” The art critic Kenneth Baker once stated that “Witkin’s only peer is Lucien Freud.” I’m usually skeptical of art critic’s declarations of someone being “America’s greatest figurative painter” and don’t give much more credibility than I would Joe’s Diner claiming they have “America’s Best Hotdogs” but in the case of Jerome Witkin there is no doubt in my mind he is worthy of such high praise. Perhaps what impresses me most with his painting is that he builds upon the rich tradition of narrative figure painting into grand works that are of our times. His paintings work on a multiplicity of levels of meaning, artistry and vision that speaks to the advanced painters and other people with great knowledgeable about art as well as people who know little about art but care deeply about life and the troubles we humans often find ourselves in.


Many works often explore issues of spirituality and inner landscapes – looking directly from his life experiences. One example involves his father who died at age fifty, after living several years homeless on the streets. In an effort to understand his father better he began to look at his Jewish history and in particular, the Holocaust. This resulted in a series of monumental works about the Holocaust done over a twenty-three years. Many of these images are shown later in this article, these paintings huge size and complexity makes it important to view them enlarged to get closer to viewing the full experience. Jerome Witkin has been a Professor of Painting at Syracuse University in Syracuse, New York since 1971. (as an aside, I have an interview planned next week with one of his former students, David Kassan) A terrific book as well as many articles in leading art magazines and newspapers have been written about him, I have put some links to a few of these at the end of this article.


Witkin’s works are found in the permanent collection of prominent museums around the world that include the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C., and the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy.

Bridge 1973 24 x 22 inches Oil

Larry Groff:

Well, thanks again for agreeing to do this interview with me. I really appreciate it. There’s going to be a lot of painters who will really get a lot out of this, I’m sure.

I have basically about four, maybe five questions for you. The first question that I [have] was I was reading in your Life Lessons catalog, you had stated in there that in 1997, you asked yourself, What do I care about most? You went on to say that, “Improving the world is a noble and high desire; that human nature can be improved, and to do this requires constantly good actions: one-on-one, political doing justice.” How do I affect this, you asked yourself. Is my work really that strong? Is my presence as a teacher doing this?

How would you now answer these questions you asked of yourself back then?

Jerome Witkin:


Larry Groff:

If you can. Speak to that however you want.

Jerome Witkin:

Well, let me think about that.

Larry Groff:

What do you care about most?

Kill-Joy, To the Passion of Kathe Kollwitz (Kreischerville Wall) detail 1975-76 74 x 79O inches Oil on Canvas
Please click for larger view (note: most all the rest of the images in this article have a larger view that MUST be clicked!)

Jerome Witkin:

That’s interesting. I mean, right now, I have to shift it to my son because he just went through a bone marrow transplant. He’s had two horrible years of really being very ill, and the transplant, actually, was successful. As to last Monday, he was engrafted 100 percentile and he’s getting now, on a daily basis, a maintenance situation that will go on for two more months. We spoke to him tonight.

I think there is something about life and art. I mean, if we didn’t have certain experiences with other people reflecting human nature gone wrong, or even human nature gone right, we’d have a background of trauma or background of somebody loving us where you love them back.

I think it’s a matter of how you survive certain situations and then what you do with your art. I mean, I think that’s a big problem. Because my son was so ill, and I knew that eventually he would be in a life and death situation, I made myself, this semester work in my class, and be as normal as possible.

I made myself get into a very large project in my studio which would be really challenging to me, only because I really wanted to be able to stay active. In my work I can forget almost everything. In terms of around me, I could absorb myself in it.

At the same time, my work, of late … About two years ago I began a picture about Dorothy Day (link to wikipedia page on Dorothy Day), because I was really interested—and I still am—in how one person affects society. And I did a painting of her which maybe is not my best painting ever, but I think I learned a lot from it. And I have that in my studio now. A finished thing with a lot of pretty good studies.

In reading about Dorothy Day, in her statements, and trying to formulate an image that would summarize her in gesture and action was a very deep challenge. All I know is that you do what you do, and you hope it makes sense and you hope it’s accessible. And I think that’s a very large issue, accessibility, and also being honest with where you find yourself in your interest and how to explore that.

The Act of Judith 1979-80 60 x48 inches Oil on Canvas

I also did, right after that, a very large thirty foot 5-panel painting about Martin Luther King and the destruction of the noose. And again, I had a lot of African-American  people pose for me along the way, and they were telling me things which I would never have realized without having a special demand on myself.

I learned from that. I put in twenty-five years, at least, in [paintings about -ed] the Holocaust, as a half-Jew myself; my father being Jewish. All that interest in why there is human suffering and how people survive that, as best they can, or make some sense of suffering.

I wanted to be involved with the [heroics] of King, who by the way I met very shortly to say hello, how are you, in front of a Baptist church in Baltimore when I was about twenty-five or twenty-four. I never thought I’d be making a picture about him or the civil rights situation, but you never know. You never know why you get involved.

Headstone Portrait Of Claudia Glass 1981 Triptych 78 x 53 inches Oil on Canvas

I also met John Lewis, who is now, of course, the aging congressman from Georgia. Again, when he was a very young guy, I was a young guy in my first teaching job. I’d never met, or talked with, an African American person about politics. We sat down in a classroom and I said, “What are you doing?” He was explaining things, and I was deeply impressed by this guy. He stays an impressive person to me to this day.

What I’m trying to say is I think that we’re stumbling into experiences, and though we must feel intuitively drawn to one or two or three of these experiences, along the way, and really delve into them, because I think all these life lessons are messages that are very valuable to us if we explore it.

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27 Responses to “Jerome Witkin”
  1. I very much enjoyed the interview with Jerome. He had such a big impact on me at Syracuse (I took classes with him for a few years). I remember his larger than life personality and art, specifically visiting his studio several times, going to his house for dinner, drawing cadavers at the medical school morgue in his anatomy class (one of my top 5 or 6 most profound life experiences), and watching him draw during class (probably one of the best draftsman I’ve ever seen or known) I admire his determination and willingness to create paintings which are heroic and challenging, and at times corny and very disturbing, but as he states in the interview, are being driven by his personal/spiritual need. It’s very inspiring to see an artist create things that are not always ‘marketable’, striving for an existence beyond fashion and aesthetics. Sad to hear him talk about his son (he had just been born when I was there), but praying that his surgeries go well and he’ll have a continued life of good health. Thanks again Larry for showcasing some great art; looking forward to what’s next.

    • Larry says:

      Glad you liked it Francis. You are incredibly lucky to have studied with him at Syracuse – I was inspired by just talking to him on the phone but to hear him talk in his studio and the classroom must be really something.

      I spoke to him again briefly and he asked that I send him people’s comments from this interview later on. He said he’s very interested in reading people’s comments about his work and ideas. So I hope readers won’t be shy and please contribute your reaction and thoughts to the comments here.

  2. Jack Rutberg says:

    I greatly enjoyed your interview with Jerome Witkin. I should point out that at the end you note that Jack Rutberg Fine Arts is in San Francisco. The gallery is actually located in Los Angeles.

    As Jerome Witkin’s agent, I’ve had the opportunity to share the podium with Jerome on many occasions. As compelling as the written interview is, since I see that you have an audio feature, I would encourage any reader to listen to it. Jerome is a wonderful story teller and the gravitas and his awe for great art comes through in his voice. He’s that rare artist whose articulate speaking skills can compliment these amazing paintings without getting in their way, in spite of the fact that his paintings often depict the indescribable…as in the case of the Holocaust works. For those who need more after listening to this interview, I’d like to post here a link to a wonderful public radio program from 1998 on the occasion of a monumental drawings exhibition of Jerome’s in Los Angeles.
    Jerome’s comments were inspiring and we’re all enriched by them.

    • Larry says:

      I appreciate your comment Mr. Rutberg – I look forward to listening to the podcast you linked to, thanks. My apologies about the mistake about your location, I’ll correct that shortly.

  3. bill murphy says:

    I believe that Jerome Witkin is one of the most courageous painters I know of. Nothing seems to be beyond his power of realization. His work reminds me of what Francis Coppola once said – “If it can thought, it can be filmed” (painted). It is a testament to the times we are living through that not more people know of what he has done.
    I appreciate your posting his work, Larry, and hope you will continue this endeavor…

  4. That was very interesting. Another great interview. I had never heard of him before and I look forward to seeing more of his wonderful paintings. Thanks Larry.

  5. Kevin D Smith says:

    A wonderful, important, and singular painter! Two of my favorite paintings are Subway: A Marriage, and A Jesus For Our Time. In these, as well as most of his work, he is able to create fully realized individuals burdened with the weight of past experiences, and rich, poignant responses to traumatic events and circumstances. The multiple panels really allow the viewer to follow the vitality of the narrative and the journey of the protagonist. His imagination in concieving the dramas in his work is courageous and inspiring. I can’t think of another contemporary narrative figure painter with such powerful and revelatory work(certainly not Beal or Leslie, maybe certain works by Fischl).

    The Life Lessons book is a prized possession of mine, and I hope I get the chance to see Mr. Witkin’s paintings in person someday.

    Anyway, Thanks for a great post in particular and a great blog in general.

  6. jade says:

    wow. thanks larry.

  7. Matthew Mattingly says:

    Thank you for introducing me to this great painter and thinker. I agree with you about the absurdity of ranking artists as if art were a contest, when it is in essence an encounter between subjectivities.
    I’m also skeptical of comparisons, but if I was going to compare him with another artist, Freud wouldn’t be my first choice. I think of Freud as primarily exploring the interaction of depicted form with the physical paint, with subject matter in a supporting role; Witkin seems to be using the paint to create a compelling image, with content and symbolism much more in the ascendancy. Not that the painting per se isn’t beautiful, but I get around to looking at it after reacting to the imagery, not before.
    An artist I do see resonances with is Henry Koerner, who shares fantastic and enigmatic imagery, illustrative technique, and engagement with political and philosophical issues, in particular the Holocaust, which claimed his parents and brother. Both Koerner and Witkin combine realistically painted images with collage-like juxtaposition, or introduce “real” elements such as posters, signs, reflections, door frames, etc that create collage effects in the context of a naturalistically rendered space.
    Terminal is a good example of this, used to great emotional effect. On first viewing, I found it difficult to parse the various planes into a sense of the 3D space, and only after spotting the yellow star on the man’s jacket did it fall into place as a cattle car, with the door about to be shut on its doomed occupant. The treatment of the textures and structures remind me of Adolph von Menzel’s iron and wood realism, but here as the stolidly quotidian setting for a surreal nightmare that came true.
    This painting also features the battered suitcase, which appears to be a recurring motif in Witkin’s work.
    I wish I knew more about the background to Entering Darkness. The green Hitler head morphing into a reaching hand recalls the green Mussolini head jack-in-the-box in Peter Blume’s Eternal City, but even more terrifying. But what is the whole series about? Was there in fact a nurse who was detailed to go assist Mengele in his experiments?

    What really got to me was Witkin’s declaration the making art is a spiritual journey, and his manifest willingness to grapple with the big questions combined with his corollary doubts – the risk doing something “foolish.”
    Besides the possibility of looking foolish to the outside world, the deeper question is, How to pick your way on the path? Is a particular image or idea a revelation or just a hallucination?
    As Witkin says, this is not easy, and he turns to the “Everest climbers” for guidance.
    I also liked his statement on the portrait – “showing something more than somebody in a chair.”
    But the most moving part of all is the relationship he has between his family and his art, and the realization that the two are truly connected. The fear that his son would die prompted a painting that might well have been an excellent depiction of despair, but had to be destroyed because defeat and pity had no place in the real-life battle for life and hope. Art is not something that takes place in the “art world.” It is part of the world, period.

  8. Rebecca says:

    Witkin is a very gutsy human being and artist – fearlessness in the face of fear, and I think this is an excellent lesson for any artist. I think many artists prefer to choose something a little easier to grapple with, but Witkin is calling into focus the very purpose of human existence. It is not often that we see artists who dig into life so fully, exposing its tragedies, struggles and nobility of effort. Because of this, his works could verge on the edge of becoming kitsch or illustrative if the themes were painted in a different way. But he is not simply documenting, he is trying to immerse himself fully in the subjects, and as a result, the emotions this process brings out causes marks of passion and empathy, something which happens without you even realising. In the radio program posted above, I listened to Witkin describing something I recognized, what happens sometimes when he looks at one of his past works. You look at the work and do not actually believe that you did it. You look at a mark and cannot recall what caused you to make it so, and yet it is the right mark, and one you cannot repeat.

    I think Witkin reveals how significant art can become if the artist puts their entire soul into a painting about real life, not just motifs in nature. He is not concerned with making pleasing pictures, artistic constructs or shocking effects to call attention. His paintings can be haunting and devastating, but at the same time they provide solace. They provide questions and answers, but not necessarily the answers to the questions. Larry – thank you for posting this, and Jerome Witkin, thank you for painting.

  9. Neil Plotkin says:

    Thank you so much for another incredible interview. I saw Jerome Witkin speak at the New York Academy of Art in the fall of 2008. I wasn’t familiar with his work or him at all and came away very inspired. I found his pursuit of heroic painting to be so exciting and straight forward. He seemed to distill the world around us into very clear straight forward narratives – very much like an author. I wanted to be able to hold onto that talk as a touchstone to re-inspire myself, but since it was a talk and the words were all in the ether, it was somewhat lost to me over time. It is really fantastic to be able to read and reread his thoughts and comments.

    I am very impressed with what he said about his meeting with Giorgio Morandi. It seems to me that the comments about that meeting sum up what it means to be an painter. That we are looking to define our own reality. The mundane things that Morandi painted were elevated to a profound level because Morandi found his reality there. And I feel the reason that Mr. Witkin is able to make such powerful work is, as he stated, he had found his reality. It’s amazing to read that Mr. Witkin, a painter of incredibly complex narratives, cites Morandi, a painter of intense editing paring his compositions down to a mere few vases, as as a source of great inspiration. And at the end of the day both make extremely compelling work because they are after the same thing and that is to make work within their own realities. And he sums up about that meeting with the knock out comment of who is your audience. I

    I am really happy that you included the post interview chat as I think it gives a real sense of humility in both of your approaches to painting. This dialog really reinforced what he had said about Morandi and creating your own reality. It is really so amazing to hear Mr. Witkin – who is one of the best narrative paintings living – to say that there is just as much value in a Corot from Italy as anything else painted. He seems so supportive of any aspect of painting done with integrity.

    There is so much to chew on that I’ll have to reread it again. Please thank Mr. Witkin for readers like me who find his reflections so helpful to feel like there is purpose in doing this day after day. And of course my thoughts go to him and his son and wishing for his son’s good health.

  10. Thanks again, Larry. Jerome Witkin is amazing. And his success is bracing, when I think of the stuff the art world typically embraces. I was surprised when i found this article on your site (not sure why, but i guess i think of Witkin as a narrative painter, though obviously he works from life).

    You are consistently posting good food for thought, fuel for the fire. As many artists as I know, i often get to feeling a bit alone in the studio–and i think that solitude is something a painter has to draw close to–but it is nice to have such a resource for sharing the works of great artists and our thoughts about them. Great interview, thanks for all your work on this blog. I know I appreciate and enjoy it very much.

    • Larry says:

      Thanks to everyone writing such thoughtful and well written comments and I’m sure that Jerome Witkin will also appreciate them when I eventually forward the comments to him.

      One thought I had, after reading Gage’s comment about narrative painting and observational painting, is that it’s true many painters working from life tend to either avoid narration or only suggest it in more subtle ways. Jerome Witkin shows it can be done only as compelling narration but also on a poetic, formal level. When you think of the greatest paintings in history, the majority are narrative painting in some way or another. I’ve talked to some people who feel that is contemporary perceptual painting biggest shortcoming is the lack of big ideas, both art theory ideas and social/political/psychological ideas. Other people think this lack is one of perceptual painting’s strengths (I think tend to fall in that category) But after looking at his work more and thinking about the interview and other readings I’m not so sure.

      I’ve often felt that there have only been very few painters who have successfully painted political themes on occasion, like Goya, David, Manet, Gericault, Kollowitz, and maybe Picasso. I never warmed up to most of the political painters like Leon Gulub or the more recent post-modern expressionistic works that overtly protest various injustices, war and the like. I’ve often thought of political art as on oxymoron. Also that much of the painting was to make “banner art” to wave to like believers of some cause. Despite the fact the cause may be of vital importance, often the only people who will see or care about such paintings are already on board and the choir often gets bored with all the preachers lining up to preach.

      However, when you think about it – most religious art throughout history has also been political in some way. Virtually all depictions of people, except for the formal works like Philip Pearlstien, could also have some political context. I suspect the real problem is less that political art is bad and more to do with the current mindset of many post-modern type painters going for the shock value of raw, crude manners of painting that echos their anger or other forms of painting that pays less attention to good drawing, color and composition and ideas (that should cover everything!)

      Jerome Witkin shows it’s possible to paint gutsy, passionate pictures with great integrity both in visual and in human terms. His work gives me hope that we can still think of new ways to respond artfully as painters to the world we live in.

  11. Rebecca says:


    You raise an excellent point, and certainly one very interesting to ponder. I too see very little narrative in much of contemporary perceptual painting, as the emphasis seems more on the process of perception and less on the final result of what the painting “says” about the subject as opposed to the painter’s process. One of the reasons I found Witkin’s paintings remarkable is for his capacity to do both. Being able to say more about the subject rather than concentrate on one’s own personal artistic process probably stems from a spiritual guidance of sorts, and this is something Witkin has. It reminds me in some ways of Norman Rockwell’s ability to plunge deeply into the humanity of life, even if certainly for illustrative assignments but often times also poignantly beautiful, and of Sophie Jodoin’s explorations of themes about life, not just an exploration of the figure, but the figure’s fragility and strength in context of its very existence. Ann Gale probes deeply into the psychology of her subjects also, but there I think the focus still is more on the artist’s process of perception. Anyway, thanks for the comment Larry, good things to think about.

  12. Matthew Mattingly says:

    While I enjoy looking at paintings on many levels, the experience I relish the most is when I find that my perceptions have been reprogrammed by the artist’s. So when walking out of a Degas exhibition, everything looks likes a Degas. My intentional visual control system has learned to search out certain linear rhythms, shapes, and values, so even though the world into which I emerge contains no ballerinas, bathing women, or horses, I discover the Degassian schema beneath the surface.
    I bring this up, because although at first glance I considered Witkin’s world to be fantastical or surreal, after spending a morning looking at his work, I found that my perceptions had been Witkinized, and I perceived my own cluttered living room according to a new visual principle. I especially noticed how reflected images, photos, artwork, spaces framed by doorways and windows,and other “pictures in the picture” fit together in a collage-like but unified fashion I had originally noted in Witkin’s paintings.
    Not all artists, or even all good artists, have this effect. For instance, I like Rockwell, and may from time to time see a scene and think, “That looks like a Rockwell,” but I never find myself seeing everything as Rockwellian. I think this is because he does a great job of rendering reality as conventionally received, but doesn’t supply a novel visual language or schema. I like the way he does an old truck fender, but it’s pretty much the image of an old truck fender I had in mind to begin with.
    So, to me, perceptual is not opposed to narrative; they are separate channels over which the painter may or may not communicate.

  13. erik halvorsen says:

    another wonderful Larry. This is turning into a really exciting oral history project. I imagine the Smithsonian will want to get a copy of these at some point.

    I don’t have much to add that hasn’t been noted above except that I particularly enjoyed the little story about his encounter with Morandi. What a special moment.

    Also, his comment about “little Dick-heads” was quite funny. The same can be applied to many successful artists and their followers.

    Thanks for posting the audio with these as well. You have been fortunate to interview painters who happen to be very articulate and engaging and I’ve enjoyed returning to them on my iPod from time to time.

  14. james says:

    Oh how I wish I had known about this wonderful artist and educator and that Syracuse University was so close to Ottawa. I may have chosen to go there for an art education.
    He blows me away with his technique and he frightens me terribly about the awful truth of Nazi treatment of its prisoners.
    May we never ever allow this time in history to repeat itself. But then that is my naivete coming through. Mankind has always been the depths of hell on earth in how it treats its fellowman, love or hate.

  15. Skip Rohde says:

    Wonderful interview, Larry. I discovered Jerome Witkin about ten years ago, and a few years later had the opportunity to study with him one-on-one in his studio. He is an incredibly wonderful man, unbelievably generous, warm, and humble. His paintings are fascinating in book or on your computer screen, but in person, they pack a punch that must be experienced. I came away with a notebook filled with thoughts and insights that, years later, I’m still digesting. This interview brought still more. Jerome’s comment about who your audience really is hit home. So often, we think of our audience as some unknown collector who might buy our work, and we (consciously or unconsciously) tailor it to them. When we’re trying to pay the bills, that’s not surprising, but it’s also short-sighted. Thanks to you and to Jerome for this reminder.

  16. Larry, I stumbled on your excellent interview when I googled Jerome a few days ago. I work at an art museum and was matting and framing one of Jerome’s drawings for a show that is being curated by one of Jerome’s friends, Sig Abeles. I also studied under Jerome in the mid-80s, at Syracuse. I was a not very disciplined student and cut too many classes, including the day his Anatomy class went to the morgue. But Jerome still made a serious impact on me. I’ve been a fan of his paintings and an even bigger fan of his drawings, for years. He is the finest draftsman I’ve ever encountered, personally.(Thanks for including a drawing with the interview, BTW). I remember working on a life-size double figure drawing in that class. Jerome asked the models to pose as if they had just discovered their nakedness and were being cast out of the Garden of Eden, by God. Those classes were six hours long and I think we worked on that pose for 2 or 3 weeks. I learned about pushing past the moment when you think you’ve drawn all you can see…to keep looking and revising. I kept that drawing for years.

  17. Thought you might be interested in this show:

    Drawn to Paint: The Art of Jerome Witkin consists of 70 works–including drawings, paintings and sketchbooks–by Witkin, one of America’s leading figurative painters and a longtime professor of painting in VPA’s Department of Art. Dividing the show between the two venues allows for broader access and engagement within the community.

    Drawn to Paint marks the first time Witkin has allowed his drawings to be displayed beside their finished works. Curator of the exhibition is Edward A. Aiken, associate professor and program coordinator of VPA’s graduate program in museum studies in the Department of Design. “Drawn to Paint” will be traveling to other museums around the country during a two-year tour that will conclude at the Palmer Museum of Art in University Park, Pa.

    Witkin’s career as a professor at VPA spans four decades. He has known an enviable number of artists central to the development of 20th-century American painting, and he has studied the history of art with great care. Witkin brings all of this knowledge of drawing, painting and history to bear in the classroom studio, where he encourages and critiques his students. This exhibition celebrates Witkin’s career as an artist-teacher, a dual role in which he has excelled.

    The works included in Drawn to Paint come from galleries, private collections and museums across the country. Notable institutional lenders include the Munson-William-Proctor Arts Institute in Utica, N.Y.; the Memorial Art Gallery in Rochester, N.Y.; the Everson Museum in Syracuse; the Palmer Museum of Art in University Park, Pa., and Jack Rutberg Fine Arts in Los Angeles.

    For SUArt Galleries hours, related programming, and more information on the show, visit or Facebook. XL Projects is open Wednesday-Sunday, noon-6 p.m. The gallery may be contacted at (315) 442-2542 during gallery hours or e-mail Andrew Havenhand at

  18. To add to Mr. Valenzuela’s post about the “Drawn to Paint” exhibition, I am the producer of the “Arts Talk” radio features for WCNY-FM in Syracuse. I had the privilege of interviewing Jerome Witkin about the exhibit, and about aspects of his painting and teaching career. WCNY-FM broadcast short excerpts from the interview on the air, and we have the full interview on the “Arts Talk” blog. You can hear it at

  19. I just got the catalog for Jerome’s show at Syracuse University: “Drawn to Paint”. I highly recommend getting it for anyone who’s a fan of his work. There are great color reproductions, some lengthy essays, and it’s only $20. You can order it through SU’s book store. Wish I could go see the show in person…

  20. john lo presti says:

    I too just stumbled on this article. Absolutely terrific! I took a life drawing course with Jerome back in the mid ’70s at Sryacuse. Man could he draw. I’ll always remember him talking about the energy he had with his fellow students at Cooper Union.

  21. James R. Sparks says:

    I have an oil Painting which I believe is a Witkin.Must be at least 30 years old it was givin
    to me by my brother in law who passed away 11 years ago. He traveled all over the world
    buying paintings and artifacts.How do I verify the authenticity.Of this wonderful art so I
    may share it with others.

  22. john hunn says:

    Jerome is my absolute favorite contemporary figurative painter. His sense of color, the language changes going from raw to peaceful passage. Always pushing out, the work is so compressed and filled with such energy. Just wonderfully painted.

  23. J’adore Jerome Witkin!

    In my opinion -that often much of current realist painting is too enamoured with the Academic. Mr. Witkin takes fine draughtsmanship and brings it powerfully into the 21st century. I have decried the lack of rigorous classical schooling- I am a victim of the Boston Museum School; but I do think that an artist like Witkin points out a fresh new direction for mimetic painting.

    What imaginitave work- he makes us see the ordinary anew.


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