David A. Leffel
Portrait by Donna Granata - 2008
Self Portrait drawing
Born in Brooklyn in 1931, the distinguished painter David A. Leffel spent eleven years of his childhood battling a bone disease in various hospitals. He used this time to hone his drawing abilities. This passion eventually led him to enroll in Parsons School of Design, as well as Fordham University. At the Art Students League of New York, he flourished under Frank Mason and ultimately taught there for 25 years.
In 1992 Leffel and his partner, the distinguished painter Sherrie McGraw, moved to Taos, where their studios overlook the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Well-known to art students worldwide through his bestselling books and videos, Leffel conducts workshops throughout the country and launched his own annual awards program for excellence in painting.
(Excerpts from the article “David A Leffel: The Elegance of Paradox” by Rachel Wolf, Fine Art Conoisseur, October 2011)
In 1959-1960, Leffel studied at the Art Student's League in New York City. There he developed the chiaroscuro technique that has led to his frequent tribute as a "20th-century old master."
In 1972 Leffel returned to the Art Students League as an instructor. Under the influence of the great 17th-century Dutch masters, especially Rembrandt, Leffel's work reflects a personal belief that a painting must convey a sense of mystery and beauty. Throughout the interplay of light and shadow, through texture and shape and color, Leffel transforms the simple and ubiquitous objects of everyday life into rich creations of enigma and presence. Although he concentrates much of his efforts on still lifes and portraits, Leffel has done more landscape paintings with strong skies, dark clouds, and a magnificent shaft of light. For the self-described light and shadow painter, the canvas presents the challenge to create "beauty and simplicity through colors, textures, shapes, lights, and darks, as they are the tools of the artist. If he can see."
Love For Three Oranges
Love For Three Oranges
David A. Leffel is a twentieth-century artist who paints in the classic Flemish/Dutch old master style, much in the manner of Rembrandt or Chardin. His subject matter is still-lifes, landscapes, portraits and figures, but the real subject of his work is how light affects everything, as it gently drifts from one object to another. Light is, in fact, what Leffel calls "the concept" of the painting.
For David, beauty is absolute, perfect and universal. He believes the goal of the artist is to understand beauty and to translate its essence upon the canvas. His art reflects this constant striving to expand this understanding, and, his artistic application of the knowledge. Since beauty is absolute, and not relative to the artist, art is therefore timeless. Although the art of Leffel is reminiscent of the Dutch Baroque painters, he is a master of light and shadow. When Leffel paints, even the simplest still lifes are dramatic, and fill the observer with a profound sense of awe. Viewers must appreciate the art of David A. Leffel on its own terms, and not try to apply stylistic associations to his work. The beauty Leffel conveys on canvas testifies to his understanding and talent.
Red Onions, Eggs and paints
David Leffel’s works have been exhibited in major museums and private collections, and he has received three gold medals at the National Academy of Western Art, as well as a gold medal from the Hudson Valley Art Association and Allied Artists of America. He has also been featured in a number of publications including American Artist Magazine, Artists of the Rockies and the Golden West, Southwest Art, American Artists of Renown, and American Society of Portrait Artists. An instructional painting book on Leffel’s teachings was written by Linda Cateura, Oil Painting Secrets from a Master (Watson Guptill, 1984). It continues to instruct new generations of painters. Internationally recognized as a “20th Century Old Master,” David Leffel illuminates his paintings with a light that seems to fall from deepest memory.
Yet while the figures of 17th Century Dutch Masters—most notably Rembrandt—cast powerful shadows on Leffel’s work, it is not only the shades of history, but the artist’s immediacy, that awaken us to brilliance. Perhaps in this way more than any other, David Leffel proves himself a true master of chiaroscuro—not only with shadow and light, but with past and present. In An Artist Teaches: Reflections on the Art of Painting, we discover the revolutionary approach that Leffel brings to the classical tradition of painting.
George Carlson and Boy w/Eagle, 1991
T’ang Horse and Chinese Lanterns, 1996
W. Donald Head, 1997
Rembrandt, Pushman and Court Lady, 2000
Mery, 2001 Edward “Eddie” Locke, 2001
Images from davidleffel.com
Although he concentrates much of his efforts on still life and portraits, since his move to New Mexico in 1992, Leffel has done more landscape paintings with strong skies, dark clouds, and a magnificent shaft of light. For the self-described light and shadow painter, the canvas presents the challenge to create "beauty and simplicity through colors, textures, shapes, lights, and darks, as they are the tools of the artist. If he can see…"