AARON BERKMAN (1900-1991)
"THE WPA MASTER TEACHER AND ARTIST"
by Jeanette Hendler
Aaron Berkman was born in Hartford, Conn. in 1900, the youngest
of four children. His parents had settled there around 1885. He
demonstrated early talent and encouraged by his parents, from
1916-18, he attended the Connecticut League of Art Students, founded
by Charles Noel Flagg, Connecticut's official portrait painter.
From 1919-21 he was a student of Albertus E. Jones at the Hartford
Art School. Berkman stated that he was influenced during this
time by George Innes and John Singer Sargent and the old masters.
He received a Scholarship to the Museum Art School of Boston
from 1921-24 and then traveled to Europe, remaining there from
1924 through 1925 he spent time in France, Italy, Spain, Holland
During the years of 1926-28, Berkman had one man shows at the
Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Babcock Galleries, New York and
Grace Home Galleries, Boston, Mass,
In 1929, during the Depression, he moved to New York City,
continuing a friendship and painting relationship with Milton
Avery. Marrying Victoria Artese in 1931 he was appointed by the
W.P.A. (Works Progress Administration) to a Directorship position
at the WPA Art Center of the 92nd Street Y in New York City, at
a Directors salary of $23.50 per week. He was in charge of a Seventeen
(17) member WPA Artist Faculty. The school gave free tuition and
had several hundred students. During this period, with Herman
Baron ad Director, Berkman established the A.C.A. Gallery in New
York City at 52 West 8th St., the first Artist Cooperative Gallery
in New York City.
Summers were spent from 1939-1945 on Mohegan Island, ME, in
addition to summers on Cape Ann, MA, the CT Shore,VT and the Adirondacks
where many of his available works were painted. During this same
period, Berkman also wrote a regular column "ARTICUS COMMENTS"
for ART FRONT with Herman Baron, as the Editor.
When the United States Government terminated the WPA at the
92nd Street Y, it then became the Y Art Center, with Berkman remaining
as the Director. In addition to being the Director, Berkman also
taught classes there on Art and lectured on Art History.
Berkman, during this period, had one-Man Exhibitions at Stovola
Hartford, Conn. in 1933, Erick Newhouse Galleries, New York
City in 1935 and A.C.A. Galleries, New York City in 1932 and 1934
in addition to many group shows.
Among the writings produced by Berkman was as a regular contribution
to the American Mercury (Debate with Jacob Burke "Art as
Propaganda-1932) and in the American Spectator "Sociology
of the Comic Strip" 1934.
Remaining the Director of the Y Art Center in New York City
until his mandatory retirement at age 65 in 1965, he had additional
One Man Exhibitions at Associated American Artists,NYC, in 1945,
Erick Newhouse Galleries, NYC, 1952, Babcock Galleries, NYC, 1954
Kaufman Art Gallery, NYC, in 1945. 1952, 1962 and 1966.
The Group Exhibitions included the Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn,
New York, The Connecticut Academy of Fine Arts, A.C.A. Gallery,
New York, John Myers Gallery 21, New York, Norlyst Gallery, New
York, Morgan Memorial, Hartford, Conn, The Riverdale Museum, the
American Watercolor Society, New York, Roerich Museum, New York,
The New School, New York, Bronx, New York Museum of the Arts,
the W.P.A. Artists 50th Anniversary Exhibition, Audubon Artists,
NYC, The New York WPA Artists Exhibition at Passaic County College,
Passaic, New Jersey, and the Borough Presidents Gallery, New York
Berkman also received a Fellowship to Yaddo in 1956 and another
Fellowship to the Huntington Hartford Foundation (Pacific Palisades,
Calif.) in 1958. His Memberships included Director-at-Large of
Artists Equity and National Board Member and International Cultural
Relations Committee Member (1958-1962) and Audubon Artists Member.
He wrote two books. "ART AND SPACE" was published
in 1948 by Social Sciences Publishers and "THE FUNCTIONAL
LINE" was published in 1952 by Thomas Yoseloff Publishers.
During the years 1955 - 60, he was a columnist for ART NEWS, writing
a column entitled, "Amateur Standing". Berkman was also
on the Advisory Committee with Steve Wheeler at "THE FOUR
O'CLOCK FORUMS LECTURE SERIES" 1953-55.
Amongst his many listings, Berkman is listed in WHO'S WHO IN
AMERICAN ART, FRICK LIBRARY INDEX OF AMERICAN ART, WORLD BIOGRAPHY,
WHO'S WHO IN WORLD JEWRY,
When Berkman retired from the position at the Y Art Center,
he established Bercone Gallery, New York City, There, he continued
to paint, teach and exhibit. His work appears in many corporate,
private and museum collections. His available works range from
early, the majority through the W.P.A. period and some later works
from the late 4O's, 50's, 60's, 70's, etc. Most of the works are
oils, with works on paper and prints also available.
His works range in price from $500.00 to $20,000.00, subject
Jeanette Hendler has been an Art Collector for over 25 years,
Private Dealer, and Arts Consultant and is a member of the American
Appraisers Association. Jeanette resides and conducts business
in New York City, representing the works of many listed artists.