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Fine Art, Sandor Bernath, Lighthouse, New England, Watercolor, Mid 20th Century


Sàndor Bernàth (1892-c. 1984)
American: Mid 20th Century
Watercolor on thick paper, Veritable Papier D’Arches Torchon
Signed Sàndor Bernàth,  lower right
11 x 14 inches

A landscape watercolor of a lighthouse and out building by the ocean. The moody afternoon-light sky with seagulls and windswept trees creates a dramatic effect. It is painted in a Precisionist style, typical of the work of Bernàth, emphasizing the round shape of the lighthouse and demonstrating his pronounced interest in form and light.

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Sàndor Bernàth was a prolific American watercolorist, and a member of the American Watercolor Society. He was born in Hungary, but emigrated to America early in his career. 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. A favorite New England subject was yachts, with their bold geometric sunlit white sails. In his mid career, Bernàth traveled to Taos, New Mexico where he painted numerous landscape watercolors featuring its snowy mountains and adobe buildings. He also worked as an illustration artist for many New York City advertising agencies in the 1950s, frequently bringing his pictures to sell directly to executives working at the firms for their private collections. In the 1970s, Bernàth relocated with his wife to a beach house in Belfate, Honduras, where he painted various watercolors of coastal landscapes, boating, and palm trees. Bernàth spent the last few years of his life in the Central American nation of Belize, and died there in about 1984.

Bernàth early on developed a characteristic style of smoothly delineated forms with strong contrasts of light and shadow in which details are subordinated to full shaded geometric shapes of the main subject. Bernath’s use of chiaroscuro and the geometrical balance of positive and negative space contribute to the isolated monolithic rendition of the main subjects of his work. It has been observed that Bernath’s style — in his use of precise, sharply defined, geometrical forms — relates to the those of the slightly older American Precisionist painters Edward Hopper, Charles Sheeler and Charles Demuth. Indeed, 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 relocated to the Central America, represent somewhat of a shift in style, more painterly and atmospheric.

Condition:  Painted on stiff Arches watercolor paper. Generally fine overall, with only light toning, wear, handling. Some masking tape residue in outer margins, verso, and also faint pale scattered foxing, verso; all appear stable and do not affect the front image.


“Sandor Bernath.” Askart. 2000-2018. (16 May 2018).

Additional information


20th Century