Best known for his stunning portraits, master drawing skills and distinctive abstract style, Washington-based artist Sam Bookatz might be the only living artist whose studio was once in the Lincoln bedroom of the White House.
Bookatz has had a prolific career. This exhibition includes a selection of figurative drawings and cubist-inspired canvases and brings into focus Bookatz’s extraordinary passion for making art. For more than 60 years, Bookatz has produced paintings, drawings, lithographs, frescos and sculpture, in oil, tempera, gouache, watercolor, encaustic, collage, ink, crayon, plaster and concrete. His subjects have included portraits, landscapes and still-lifes.
The exhibition opens with Bookatz’s prize-winning 1948 entry to the Corcoran’s regional Biennial. This monumental conté crayon figural drawing demonstrates his virtuostic draughtsman skills and serves as a historical record of the Corcoran’s early role in Washington’s development as a cultural center. Also featured in the exhibition are Bookatz’s early charcoal and conté crayon figure drawings and his cubist still-life paintings from the 1950s and 1960s.
A special highlight of the exhibition is Bookatz’s portraits of Franklin D. Roosevelt and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, which he completed while a Navy lieutenant assigned to the White House during World War II. These works and others of Cabinet officials were created in the Lincoln Bedroom, which served as Bookatz’s studio for nearly two years. “The best light I had was sitting on the edge of Lincoln’s bed and painting with my easel propped up in front of me,” recalls Bookatz.
“It is amazing the amount of work he has completed in his lifetime,” said Bill Christenberry, professor of Drawing and Painting at the Corcoran College of Art and Design and guest curator for this exhibition. “Bookatz has used almost every possible means of expression to convey his energy and enthusiasm for art and is still creating new work at an impressive pace.”
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Born in 1910 in Philadelphia, Bookatz graduated from the Cleveland Institute of Art in 1935. He also studied painting at the Boston Museum School of Fine Arts, The Academy Grande Chaumiere in Paris and the American Academy in Rome, where he won the highly coveted Prix de Rome. As early as 1945, Bookatz became a regular contributor to the Corcoran’s Biennial exhibition and in 1948, at the age of 38, he had a one-person show at the Corcoran. His paintings are in the collections of the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Phillips Collection, the Smithsonian Institution, the White House, the Library of Congress and the Corcoran Gallery of Art. Bookatz, a long-time resident of Washington, DC, has been an active participant in the local arts community. He maintains two studios, one in Washington, DC and another in McLean, Virginia.