Friday, April 2, 2010


Stephen Gjertson was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1949, the eldest son of Arthur and Betty Gjertson. Gjertson’s family loved to read, so it’s not surprising that his first exposure to the visual arts came from books. “We owned a set of encyclopedias that reproduced many works of art. We also had novels illustrated by artists such as N. C. Wyeth, Norman Rockwell, Howard Pyle and Dean Cornwell. I remember reading those books and copying the illustrations. Later, my interest in the Old West led me to history books and stories with paintings by Frederic Remington, Charles Schreyvogel and Nicholas Eggenhofer, whose pictures I also copied. For birthdays I received books on the great masters. The work of Michelangelo, Titian and Rembrandt made a lasting impression on me. That, I said to myself, is what I want to do.”
Gjertson’s love for nature was born in the fields, woods and cliffs along the Kettle River in Sandstone, Minnesota, the home of his parents and grandparents. He filled his sketchbooks with drawings of trees, rocks and the ruins of old buildings scattered throughout the overgrown quarry and the surrounding countryside. He decided to make art his profession while drawing Pilgrims at Thanksgiving in the third grade. At age 10, he received his first box of oil paints for Christmas. His art teachers in both junior and senior high school encouraged the young Gjertson. After graduating, he attended the University of Minnesota, where he played drums in the Football Marching Band. The art department at the university was hostile to what he wanted to do as an artist, and instructors told him to not pursue the outmoded principles of traditional art. Discouraged, he left and attended art school for one year. There, he encountered the same senseless fascination with negative, theory-centric art and learned nothing of practical value. In 1971 he met Richard Lack and studied art seriously until 1975 at Atelier Lack, a studio-school based upon the teaching of the 19th century French ateliers and the Boston impressionists. In 1978 he met Kirk Richards, who was studying at Atelier Lack.
(Stephen Gjertson Galleries)
Stephen Gjertson and Kirk Richards have been close friends since they met in 1978. They were both trained by Richard Lack at Atelier Lack in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Gjertson from 1971-75 and Richards from 1976-80. The two have been painting and exhibiting together for twenty-five years, beginning with the seminal Classical Realism: The Other Twentieth Century, a large, traveling exhibition held at the Springville Museum of Art, The Amarillo Art Center and The Maryhill Museum of Art in 1982-83. They were members of The American Society of Classical Realism Guild of Artists and were part of Beauty: A Rebirth of Relevance, a four-person exhibition held at the Newington-Cropsey Gallery of Art in 1996. In 2003 they co-wrote For Glory and For Beauty: Practical Perspectives on Christianity and the Visual Arts. In 2003 they had a successful two-person exhibition, For Glory and For Beauty, at the Biblical Arts Center in Dallas.
In 2004 Richards suggested to Gjertson the possibility of finding another artist with whom they could exhibit. They would look for a painter from a different tradition whose artistic and philosophic goals were similar, yet one who created work that was distinct from theirs in style and execution. This would provide their exhibitions with a diverse and interesting combination of work and show the strength, similarities and differences of distinctive American traditions.
In the early 1990s, Steve Armes read, "The Art Student's Dilemma," an article Richards wrote for the book Realism in Revolution: The Art of the Boston School. In his own quest for a traditional artistic training, Armes empathized with the struggles outlined by Richards in the article and contacted him. Richards was impressed with the passion Armes had for his art and for the tradition from which he emerged. Armes had been a student of Maynard Dixon Stewart, within the tradition of the important American painter and teacher, Frank Vincent DuMond. They began an association which has resulted in both personal and artistic respect. In 2005 Richards approached Armes about participating in a group with him and Gjertson – a professional group of three artists with commonly shared interests. Armes accepted and they formed TRIAD: Three American Painters.

Gjertson has gained a considerable reputation for his elegant floral still lifes, which follow in the tradition of Fantin-Latour. He also paints plein air landscapes that share an affinity to those of the Russian artist, Ivan Shishkin. Most of his current work is figurative, either intimate genre paintings of his family and friends or symbolic treatments of contemporary issues.
His portraits and quiet domestic scenes, often centered on mothers and infants, have a feeling of subtle formality and painstaking draftsmanship that carries echoes of French neo-classical masters like David and Ingres.
(Charley Parker at lines and colors)

The Newborn
Oil on canvas, 1989
Montclair Art Museum
Montclair, New Jersey, USA
From ARC

The Anniversary - detail
Oil on canvas
Collection of Fred and Sherry Ross
New Jersey, United States
From ARC

Oil on canvas, 1990
Collection of Mike Wood
From ARC

The Thoughts of Youth, 1992

Oil on canvas, 1992
Private collection of heirs of the artist
From ARC

Asleep at Last
Oil on canvas, 2004
Private collection
From ARC

After the Bath
Image © Stephen Gjertson
Scan © Gandy Gallery

After finishing a painting entitled The Newborn, in the collection of The Montclair Museum, Gjertson was determined to paint his daughter another time before she got much older. That Fall, he saw her being dried by his wife after a bath in the kitchen sink (above). During the process they began to play peek-a-boo with the towel draped over the baby’s head. His daughter’s skin looked so striking against the white towel that he decided to paint her that way.
Gjertson’s still life paintings often involve complex depictions of flowers and the glossy surfaces and elaborate patterns of porcelain. His contemplative landscapes also show a great devotion to detail and craft....
(Charley Parker at lines and colors)

August Adornment
Image © Stephen Gjertson
Scan © Gandy Gallery

Orchid Bouquet
Image © Stephen Gjertson
Scan © Gandy Gallery

Azaleas in an Oriental Planter
Oil on canvas, 1984
Collection of Ethel Hashioka
From ARC

The Master's Table
Oil on canvas, 1986
Collection of Diane Miller-Haddad (USA)
From USA

Morning on the Zumbro
Oil on canvas, 1987
Collection of Dr and Mrs Jeffrey J. Irving
From ARC

An English Table
Oil on canvas, 1991
Collection of Mrs. Harold B. Finch
From ARC

Archway -- Early Afternoon
oil on canvas, 1992
Cllection of Kirk and Linda Richards.

All of his works have a careful attention to composition that seems to give them a certain gravity. Where many contemporary artists will grab you with drama and flash, Gjertson uses the force of stillness and the weight of detail to draw your focus. His subjects seem imbued with a feeling of importance by the obvious attention he has invested in portraying them.
(Charley Parker at lines and colors)


By collidedwithgod at flickr

The Cafe Singer
By American Gallery at flickr

Bedtime Story

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