By Peter Sloggatt
With more than 75 years as an artist under his belt, Stan Brodsky seemed to be hitting his peak.
The Huntington painter’s expressionist canvases had been featured in solo shows at two New York City galleries and at Gallery North on Long Island in recent years. The Heckscher Museum in Huntington mounted a major retrospective of his work in 2013.
His expressive works, known for their rich hues and emotional impact, hung in many prestigious collections. And well into his nineties, Brodsky continued to work with intensity and commitment.
Brodsky, also an influential educator who taught fine arts for more than 30 years at LIU’s CW Post campus, died last Saturday after a brief illness. He was 94.
Brodsky called himself a “landscape expressionist,” according to a monograph published by New York City-based Lawrence Fine Art in conjunction with its “Stan Brodsky at 91” exhibition mounted in 2016.
A veteran of World War II, he was Brooklyn-born, studied art at University of Iowa and completed graduate studies at Columbia University in New York City.
In his early years he was influenced by the works of the post-impressionist Paul Cezanne, said Susan Rostan, a former student and Brodsky’s biographer. He was attracted to the works of Milton Avery and other abstractionists before finding his own unique and personal expression.
Rostan related a story Brodsky had told her that seemed to define his work.
“Knowing he had fought in France during the war,” Rostan said she thought his views were colored by those dark memories. Brodsky told her he was in a small town walking when he noticed the sunlight hitting the sidewalk.
“He was on the sunny side. On the dark side of the street he saw a crowd of people. He was peering into the darkness trying to make out the figures. There was a funeral home so they were all dressed in dark clothes,” Rostan said. “He was overcome by this feeling of darkness and went right home and tried to put it on canvas.”
Brodsky told Rostan he was struggling, unhappy with the results, and a professor told him to “put it aside. Do what you can.”
“For Stan, that was the moment he realized what it means to be a successful artist. For him it was always about the light, the color,” Rostan said.
He stayed on that path depicting primarily landscapes with increasing abstraction and expressive color. His work became more abstract relying less on literal depiction and more on color, line and shape to create the emotional response of what he saw.
During his more than 30 years teaching at C. W. Post, Brodsky influenced hundreds of students to pursue their art with the same intensity – “to keep pushing, to learn from mistakes, to find what you love to do and do it with passion,” Rostan said.
Dozens of his former students kept in touch and remained “in his orbit,” Rostan said.
A unique opportunity to see that influence will be on display at a show opening next weekend at the Art League of Long Island where Brodsky also taught. Brodsky’s paintings will hang with works by 27 of his students in the exhibition, “Stan Brodsky and Friends.” The show runs April 13-28 and an opening reception will be held 3:30-5:30 p.m. on April 14.