Raymond Breinin

Raymond Breinin, Russian/American painter & designer (1910-2000), was born in Vitebsk, Russia, where he commenced his art studies with Uri Pen (who was also the first teacher of Marc Chagall) and later attended the Vitebsk Academy of Art where Malevitch was the director. He came to the United States with his family in 1922. When he came to America he attended classes at the Art Institute of Chicago and the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts. A painter of murals for the WPA, he was invited to join the Downtown Gallery in New York City, one of the foremost galleries at the time, where he exhibited in one man shows and group shows over a period of 18 years. The winner of numerous major prizes at the Chicago Art Institute and other museums, he also won the $1000 purchase prize at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's "Artists for Victory" exhibition. He designed the sets and costumes for Anthony Tudor's ballet, "Undertow" produced by the American Ballet Theater. He executed commissions for "Life", "Fortune" and "Redbook" magazines, for the Capehart Corporation, Eli Lilly and others and was a noted illustrator and portrait painter. He did the decor for two restaurants in Chicago and painted murals in the Pump Room at the Ambassador East Hotel and in the Emerald and Jade Rooms at the Sherman Hotel in Chicago. From the 1960's through the 1980's he taught courses in painting and life drawing at the Art Student's League and the National Academy of Design in New York City. Prior to that he taught at the University of Southern Illinois, where he was artist-in-residence, the University of Minnesota and ran his own school of art in Chicago. He was a member of the National Academy of Design. His paintings were collected by the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art, Brooklyn Museum, Art Institute of Chicago and Phillips Collection. He also designed theater sets, and he was working on a theater curtain at the time of his death in Scarsdale, NY. The words "tender mysticism and sensitive strength" were used to describe his work. "Time" magazine called Breinin "the windy city mystic" and in an article in "Esquire" magazine the writer commented: "In saints and winged horses and bat-like men, in magicians evoking a monster in the forest, in sea and woodland scapes dense with brooding melancholy, in the strange coloration with which he endows a burning city, in the spires and rooftops and embankments which are for him the symbols of his native city in Russia, in the absolute loneliness of spirit which so many of his paintings declare--there is the specific character of Raymond Breinin's art. That character lies not in the dusty masks and costumes and lighting devices by which he conveys the mechanism of his magic--but in the dense atmosphere of the unreal in which his men and horses and buildings and landscapes are steeped."
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