‘Harvey Dinnerstein: Reflections on Life and Work’ to Open at Art Students League in June




Harvey Dinnerstein, Past and Present, 1994, oil on canvas, 96 x 172 in. Photo by Ed Watkins.

The Art Students League of New York presents Harvey Dinnerstein: Reflections on Life and Work, an exhibition celebrating League artist and instructor Harvey Dinnerstein (1928–2022). Honoring the artist’s storied career and impact on generations of League artists, the show surveys Dinnerstein’s practice in the figurative tradition from his early years as a League student in the 1940s through his final years painting and teaching into the 2020s. The exhibition features dozens of rare and never-before-seen works from Dinnerstein’s estate, gifted to the League upon his passing, alongside additional materials now housed in the League’s collection and archive, including original photographs, letters, diaries, and related ephemera. It is organized by the League’s Gallery Director and Curator Ksenia Nouril, PhD with Esther V. Moerdler, Curatorial Assistant. Opening on June 6th.

Born in New York City, Dinnerstein studied in 1946-47 with legendary instructors Yasuo Kuniyoshi and Julian Levi before enrolling at Tyler School of Art in  Philadelphia in fall 1947. Returning to New York in the early 1950s, Dinnerstein was one of a group of recent Tyler graduates who rebelled against the prevalent modernist and Abstract Expressionist styles by painting realistic pictures of still lifes and interiors that seemed deliberately unfashionable. Dinnerstein’s pastels, paintings, and drawings documented what he called “the powerful visual language of this cultural legacy” in images that “combine aspects of naturalism, or incidental observation, with classical elements of form and structure.”

Harvey Dinnerstein, from the series mr. melter, pastel, 30 x 22 in. Photo by Ed Watkins.

In reflecting on the exhibition, Nouril states, “It is an honor to stage this long-awaited solo exhibition of Harvey Dinnerstein, who was a beloved instructor at the League and a well-respected leader in his field at large. Thanks to the generous gift of nearly 1000 paintings and drawings along with his personal archives, this landmark exhibition is an intimate look into the life and work of Dinnerstein – a people’s artist, who documented humanity for nearly 80 years. In presenting this work, we recognize Dinnerstein’s integral role in the history of
American art, specifically in the practice of an honest and raw realism, which is ever-relevant today.”

Harvey Dinnerstein: Reflections on Life and Work showcases several significant bodies of work by the artist, including his large-scale genre scene Past and Present (92 x 147 in.), which has not been seen outside the artist’s home for decades. This epic painting is joined by life-sized full-scale portraits as well as additional works organized in thematic sections.

Harvey Dinnerstein, Bamboo Flute (Ralph McAden), 1988, oil on canvas, 76 x 37.75 in. Photo by Ed Watkins.

The exhibition’s first section looks at Harvey himself through self-portraits and portraits of loved ones, while the second explores his perspectives on care, parenthood, and family. A third is grounded by Past and Present in which his fascination with music and musicians abounds. It is complemented by a number of figure studies, many of which were made during instruction at the League and other art schools. The penultimate section encompasses various views of New York, Harvey’s hometown, including studies for his famous series Seasons, The Crossing, and Underground Together, as well as a number of
works on the subject Mr. Metzler in which Harvey explores his Jewish identity. Finally, the exhibition concludes with a look the artist’s involvement in civil rights and the fight for equality in the United States in the 1950s, ‘60s, and ‘70s, including works made as witness and documentarian of the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott and the 1968 March on Poverty, providing important visual coverage beyond photography at the height of the Civil Rights Movement.

This exhibition also marks the Dinnerstein Estate’s invaluable gift of works and archival materials to the League’s collection and archive, adding a robust and substantial cache of work alongside pieces from other famed League members and alumnae. The gift serves as an ellipsis on Harvey’s long association with the school and offers future generations of students the opportunity to learn from one of the League’s best in perpetuity.

Harvey Dinnerstein, Walking Together, Montgomery, 1956, lithograph, 36 x 51 in. Photo by Ed Watkins.

The Art Students League expands its digital offerings with Bloomberg Connects

The Art Students League is excited to partner with Bloomberg Connects, an app that allows patrons to augment their visit through a digital interface that features audio tours, videos, and more. Participating collections currently include botanical gardens, performance venues, outdoor sculpture parks, and world-class museums. The exhibition Harvey Dinnerstein: Reflections on Life and Work marks the debut of the app at The League, expanding the educational reach of the institution through multimedia experiences tailored specifically for the school. Bloomberg Connects is available free to download via the Apple
Store or Google Play.

Related Programming for Harvey Dinnerstein: Reflections on Life and Work

An Evening with Burton Silverman
Tuesday, June 11, 6pm
Join League artist Burton Silverman, a contemporary and friend of the late Harvey Dinnerstein, in a discussion of Dinnerstein’s work, their friendship, and realist art.

Curatorial Walkthrough
Tuesday, June 25, 6pm
Join the League’s Gallery Director and Curator Ksenia Nouril, PhD, and visiting Harvey Dinnerstein expert Heather Campbell Coyle, PhD, for a behind the scenes look at the exhibition Harvey Dinnerstein: Reflections on Life and Work.

Registration is encouraged at artstudentsleague.org 

All programs will be held within the exhibition in the Phyllis Harriman Mason Gallery, 215 W 57 Street, 2nd floor, which is elevator accessible.

Acknowledgements ~ The Art Students League of New York would like to thank the Harvey Dinnerstein Estate for its contributions and research support for the exhibition.
Programs at the Art Students League are made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature. Special thanks to the Art Students League Board of Control.

About the Artist ~ For over seven decades, Harvey Dinnerstein (1928-2022) painted, exhibited, and taught generations of students in the figurative tradition. Born and raised in Brownsville, Brooklyn, Harvey Dinnerstein graduated from the High School of Music and Art, New York and attended the Art Students League in 1946-47 before enrolling at Temple University’s Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia in fall 1947. In addition to being an accomplished artist, he was a beloved teacher, serving on the faculty of the School of Visual Arts in New York from 1965 to 1980, while also teaching at the National Academy of Design from 1975 to 1992. He was Instructor at the Art Students League of New York from 1980 to his death in 2022.

In 1994, Dinnerstein was honored with a retrospective exhibition at the Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, Ohio. In 1998, he received an Honorary Doctorate from the Lyme Academy of Fine Arts in Old Lyme, Connecticut. Dinnerstein’s numerous awards include Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Grants, 1948 and 1961; National Academy of Design, Ranger Purchase Award, 1976; Allied Artists Gold Medal, 1977; Audubon Artists President’s Award, 1978; American Academy of Arts and Letters Purchase Award, 1974, 1978, 1987; and Classical America, Arthur Ross Award, 1983. In 1974, he was elected a member of the National Academy of Design.

Seminal publications on the artist include Harvey Dinnerstein: Artist at Work (1978, Watson-Guptill) with an essay by the artist, and Underground Together: The Art and Life of Harvey Dinnerstein (2008, Chronicle Books) with essays by Pete Hamill and Gabriel P. Weisberg. The artist’s estate is represented by Gerald Peters Gallery, New York. His works are in many private, corporate, and museum collections, including the Lehman Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art; the New Britain Museum of American Art; the Martin Luther King Jr. Labor Center; the University of Texas; the Palm Springs Desert Museum; Chase Manhattan Bank; Keyspan Energy; and the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Harvey Dinnerstein: Reflections on Life and Work will be on view from June 6 to July 13, 2024 at The Art Students League, The Phyllis Harriman Mason Gallery, 215 West 57th Street, 2nd Floor, NYC. An Opening Reception will be held on Thursday, June 6th from 6-8pm.

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