Tropical Boating Scene
Watercolor by Sàndor Bernàth
Boating Scene Boating Scene detail
Signature detail
Sàndor Bernàth (1892-c. 1984)
American: c. 1970s
Watercolor on paper
Signed lower left
12 x 18.25 inches, overall

Two men paddle a canoe at a steep angle over a breaker, its stern submerged, a dark-skinned man holding on. A white boat, perhaps for fishing, floats in the distance. Bernąth's earlier watercolor style was crisp and controlled, while his later works in the 1970s, when he was in his eighties, take this looser, more experimental approach. During this period, he painted in Central America; this is possibly a location in Honduras, where he is known to have produced a number of tropical scenes.

Sàndor Bernàth was a prolific American watercolorist.  He was born in Hungary, but emigrated to America early in his career.  Bernàth developed a characteristic style of smoothly delineated forms with strong contrasts of light and shadow, which relate to the styles of his slightly older contemporaries Edward Hopper and the American Precisionist painters Charles Sheeler and Charles Demuth.  He is sometimes referred to as a “student of Edward Hopper” but this likely is metaphorical rather than literal.  His later works in the 1970s (when he was in his eighties) were more painterly and atmospheric in style.   He was a member of the American Watercolor Society, and remains best known for his watercolor paintings.

Bernàth began exhibiting watercolor landscapes in New York by the early 1920s, including European and New York scenes. He was also painting seascapes of New England, including Cape Cod; an extant Bernàth work of dunes in Cape Cod is dated 1928, and one of Long Point Light, Provincetown, Cape Cod, is dated 1935. From the 1920s to 1940s he lived in Maine, although he continued to travel. He painted many views of the Maine coast, one of which was purchased by the Brooklyn Museum of Art. In his mid career, Bernàth traveled to the mountainous regions of New Mexico, presumably Taos, where he painted numerous landscape watercolors featuring its snowy mountains and adobe buildings. These remain among of his most sought-after works.

Bernàth worked as an illustration artist for many New York City advertising agencies in the 1950s, and would frequently bring his pictures to sell directly to executives working at the firms for their private collections.  At that time he produced multiple works of similar images that apparently sold well, especially his yachting pictures.

In the 1970s, Bernàth relocated to Central America, executing a series of watercolors of coastal landscapes and palm trees, some of which he labeled as locations in Honduras.  Bernàth spent the last few years of his life in the Central American nation of Belize, and died there in about 1984.

Condition: Generally very good, the colors bright, with only minor toning, handling and wear. Tape residue verso outer margins from former matting, appears to be stable and not affecting the image in any way.

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