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One evening 25 years ago, Ed Bronstein found his teenaged daughter agonizing over art homework. He sat down to try to draw. He was a successful architect in Philadelphia who loved a challenge. What could be so hard?
He set up a still life and drew it. “I didn’t know what I was doing, so I was interested,” he says. He went on to study pastels at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. The teacher asked if he had ever drawn before, and the answer was no. In every course, he amazed instructors with his skill. Loving the praise, he painted more.
One faculty person at the Academy took some of Bronstein’s work to a major show, where the editor of the former American Artist magazine admired his stuff and published a seven-page article on him.
“I felt that art was for me,” Bronstein says. In 2003, he began to want to show his work, and a citywide search led him to Rosenfeld Gallery, which opened in 1976. There, Richard Rosenfeld “spent a long time looking through my portfolio.”
Success wasn’t immediate. Rosenfeld “told me to come back in six months, and then again he told me to come back in six months. On my third visit, he asked me to leave three pastels,” Bronstein continues. “All three sold to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania,” where they still hang.
“I thought my calling was architecture,” says the Center City artist. Bronstein, who considers Rosenfeld his mentor, never sounds smug. At his second Rosenfeld Gallery show, he seems childlike in his delight at the way things have turned out.
He knows he’s talented and he loves to paint, but he’s “careful to paint things that appeal to me. I don’t paint to sell. It’s not unusual that I paint four or five pieces before I have one that I can sell.” In the meantime, his studio wall hosts the contenders: “Occasionally I see something that I can improve. I never know whether I will like something when I finish.”
According to Rosenfeld, “Ed’s work is like that of the plein air painters, like the Impressionists, especially Monet. The subject matter is entirely up to the artist. You focus on what you see, not what you imagine or intellectualize about the subject — otherwise you may as well be back to your studio.”
Plein air artists don’t need to travel somewhere exotic to draw, Rosenfeld says. “You can go to a local park, to a friend with a lovely flower garden, or even set up your watercolors on a table in a coffee shop. That’s how Ed Bronstein paints. I like his sense of colors, which are rich and vibrant. I also like his joy in the paint.” This gallerist calls this artist painterly, which means allowing the brushstrokes and the scraping of the palette knife to show through, “so you can feel the process.”
Ed Bronstein’s current show at Rosenfeld Gallery, 113 Arch Street, Philadelphia, runs through June 24.
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