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Commencement 2018: President's Award for Lifetime Achievement: Harry Bertschmann, Fine Artist
Harry Bertschmann, Fine Artist, receives the President's Award for Lifetime Achievement at FIT's 2018 Commencement Undergraduate Exercises. May 24, 2018, Radio City Music Hall.
Few abstract painters today can match Harry Bertschmann’s extraordinary dynamism and versatility. Born in Basel, Switzerland, he studied at the famous Basel School of Design in the late 1940s. He immigrated to the U.S. in 1951 and, in 1958, he was the youngest artist admitted by the jury of the prestigious Carnegie International exhibition, where one of his large abstract expressionist paintings hung beside those by Mark Rothko, Franz Kline, Barnett Newman, Philip Guston, and Robert Motherwell.
Starting in the 1960s Bertschmann found himself in high demand as graphic designer of commercial logos and packaging—many of which have remained iconic in American culture (e.g.: Kent and Newport cigarettes, Nestlé, Bufferin). This success resulted in double lives because he was also driven to paint every day, pushing the boundaries of expressionism—both abstract and figurative. He probed these two approaches with fresh vision spanning seven decades. There are no one-liners here, so easy to grasp, as are Andy Warhol’s assembly line screenprints. Rather, Bertschmann’s paintings compel the viewer to linger—and upon returning find invigoration anew.
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