Bernard Chaet’s far horizon

From our review of Bernard Chaet “A Life in Art” at Boston’s Alpha Gallery:

When painter Bernard Chaet died on Oct. 16 at age 88, Alpha Gallery, which had been planning a solo show of his work for December turned it into a mini overview of his career. And the news from that exhibit, “A Life in Art,” is that in his last decade, focusing on the shore and sea of Cape Ann, Massachusetts, he painted the best canvases of his life.

Chaet (1924-2012) grew up in Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood and studied at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts and Tufts University. Early on he found inspiration in Boston Expressionism, a psychologically charged style of Modernist realist painting that emerged here in the 1930s and ‘40s.

In the 1950s, he experimented with abstraction. In the 1970s and ‘80s, he painted still-lifes and studio portraits in a stripped-down, flat realism. But again and again he returned to landscapes and seascapes painted with an expressionist realism.

His oil paintings tended to exhibit a sturdy competence, but undistinguished vision. His expressionist stylizations could be formulaic. Cows he painted grazing in hot hued fields—a signature motif over the years—tended to be caricatures, not animals carefully observed and fully felt. He was best known for teaching art at Yale University in Connecticut from 1951 to 1990 and authoring the influential 1970 book “The Art of Drawing.”

But as early as the 1960s, Chaet began summering at Cape Ann. After his retirement, he often split his years between Connecticut and there. Cape Ann’s rugged shore became a primary subject. He favored a few locations—particularly Bass Rocks in Gloucester and Pigeon Cove in Rockport—painting them again and again.

Read the rest here.

Bernard Chaet “A Life in Art,” Alpha Gallery, 37 Newbury St., Boston, Dec. 1, 2012, to Jan. 9, 2013.

Pictured at top: Chaet’s 2008 oil painting “Blue.”

Chaet’s 2004 to 2006 painting “Breaking Out.”

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