Russian-born Sergei Bongart was one of the most remarkable artists to reach American soil. Traditionally trained in the academics and Russian Realism at the Kiev Art Institute, he saw his paintings grace museum walls by age eighteen. Later his artistic talent sustained him through his terror-ridden path across Europe through the tumultuous war years.
In America he had a vast student population, much beloved – he wanted to educate anyone who wanted to learn about art – to feed hungry minds. He also wanted to continue his own artistic education – furthering his training in America with the renowned Russian-born master, Nikolai Fechin.
No matter what the subject – landscapes, figures, still lives – Bongart painted from his emotions, not for any particular audience. Unconsciously painting with bravura, using broad juicy strokes in alla prima technique – that which came naturally and confidently, yet with nuances of utmost sensitivity – he painted alternating “lights with darks,” “thick with thin,” “finding an edge, then losing an edge,” for mystery or contrast.
He was a gentleman and a gentle man, a beloved teacher, many of whose students continue to follow his teachings and bless him for giving them a solid foundation in art. “My painting conscience still has a Russian accent!” Karen Martin mused. “I continue to hear his advice: ‘Cover your canvas. Compare colors. Compare values. Compare temperatures.”
From Sergei Bongart, by Mary Nelson Balcomb. Cody Publishing, Seattle WA. 2007.