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Fine Art, Sandor Bernath, Southwest Landscape in Winter, Taos, Vintage Watercolor, mid 20th Century


Sàndor Bernàth (1892-c. 1984)
Southwest Landscape in Winter
American: Mid 20th Century
Signed lower right
Watercolor on paper
13.75 x 17.5 inches, overall

Watercolor depicting snow-covered adobe homes in the valley of a mountain range, in the American Southwest, possibly in the vicinity of Taos, New Mexico. Taos has been an active artist’s colony since the early 20th century, and a winter resort since the first ski area opened in the 1950s. While Bernàth is particularly well-known for his New England maritime scenes, he also spent a great deal of time painting in the Southwest. Bernàth’s style is allied with the precisionist paintings of his contemporaries, and characteristically emphasizes geometric shapes and planes of color, and demonstrates a pronounced interest in how light and shadow reveal color and three-dimensional form. This work is emblematic of that approach: painted on rough-textured paper, the composition emphasizes the repeating rectangles of the foreground forms against the repeating triangles of the background mountains. The late afternoon sun brightens the front of a picturesque adobe home and its turquoise door, in dramatic contrast to the deep purple shadows that fall across the snow-covered slopes.

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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: 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 on the front.


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

Additional information


20th Century