David A. Leffel is a twentieth-century artist who paints in the classic Flemish/Dutch old master style, much in the manner of Rembrandt or Chardin. His subject matter is Still Lifes, Landscapes, Portraits and figures, but the real subject of his work is the light as it gently drifts from one object to another. It pauses here, then moves on.
"Light is the concept of the painting"
- David A. Leffel.
Statement of Purpose:
"Art is an expression of unity and universality, not temporal factors. It is a means of reaffirming life, of overcoming confusion..."
For David, beauty is absolute, perfect and universal. He believes the goal of the artist is to understand beauty and to translate its essence upon the canvas. His art reflects this constant striving to expand this understanding, and, his artistic application of the knowledge.
Since beauty is absolute, and not relative to the artist, art is timeless. Although Leffel's works remind us of the Dutch Baroque painters, he is a master of light and shadow. Even Leffel's simplest still lifes are dramatic, and fill us with a profound sense of awe. We must appreciate the art of David A. Leffel on its own terms, and not try to apply stylistic associations to his work. The beauty we see and feel on a Leffel canvas testifies to his understanding and talent.
Born in Brooklyn in 1931,the distinguished painter David A. Leffel spent eleven years of his childhood battling a bone disease in various hospitals. He used this time to hone his drawing abilities. This passion eventually led him to enroll in Parsons School of Design, as well as Fordham University. At the Art Students League of New York, he flourished under Frank Mason and ultimately taught there for 25 years. In 1992 Leffel and his partner, the distinguished painter Sherrie McGraw, moved to Taos, where their studios overlook the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Well-known to art students worldwide through his bestselling books and videos, Leffel conducts workshops throughout the country and recently launched his own annual awards program for excellence in painting.
Leffel is not at a loss for words when it comes to his philosophy of painting. He seeks to understand the process of painting in the way a theoretical physicist seeks to understand the universe. In fact, he does not paint people or fruit, but quarks and electrons, waves and particles. His objects only appear to be solid when you step back to where you can no longer see the motion. He calls this process of the artist seeking to comprehend nature “intelligence”. It is a key aspect of Leffel’s philosophy.
Leffel’s collectors respond strongly to the timeless, humane qualities in his work. In conversation with a collector, Leffel once mentioned how his paintings are about light and shadow. “Oh” - said the collector, "I thought they were about quiet”.
This connection between art and life is not limited to the attitudes of collectors: It is fundamental to Leffel’s philosophy. He asserts, -The more you invest in anything, the more you get out of it. That’s true in any area of life. That kind of attitude is always looking for a better solution: What’s stronger, what’s simpler? It requires insight to find a beautiful, consistent, structural unity. Like a good musical composition, everything dovetails, nothing is extraneous; everything functions for the good of the whole. It takes tremendous energy and commitment.
“When I first started painting I just thought it was something I’d like to do - and if I could make some money at it, then I didn’t have to get a job! As I went further into it, I needed confirmation that the things I was discovering in paint were true. I found that if it was true in painting, it was also true in life. Painting is like an interlocking set of relationships - color, edges, values, thick and thin, etc. Life is the same. Everything is interrelated. All of life is like one big, interlocking relationship. Everything you do has a consequence to everything else”.
His books in print are Self-Portraits:
A Visual Journey of Insight (Bright Light Publishing, 2008);
An Artist Teaches: Reflections on the Art of Painting (Bright Light Publishing,2004);
Oil Painting Secrets from a Master (with Linda Cateura, 1984, reprinted 1995).
1990 Gold Medal Oil, National Academy of Western Art;
1986 Gold Medal Oil, Allied Artists of America;
1984 Grand Prize, American Artists Professional League;
1983 First Prize Oil, Art Annual IV;
1982 Ralph Fabri Medal, Allied Artists of America;
1981 Gold Medal Oil, National Academy of Western Art;
1981 Gold Medal of Honor, Hudson Valley Art Association;
1980 Best Light and Atmospheric Effect, Hudson Valley Art Association;
1979 Marcia H. Van Der Voort Award, Hudson Valley Art Association;
1979 American Artists Society Award, Pastel Society of America;
1978 Margaret Fernald Dole Memorial Award, Hudson Valley Art Association;
1977 Thora Jensen Memorial Award, Hudson Valley Art Association;
1977 Jane Peterson Award, Allied Artists of America;
1975 John Newington Award, Hudson Valley Art Association;
1974 Archer M. Huntington Prize Best Portrait, Hudson Valley Art Association;
1973 Cash Award, Grumbacher Artists' Materials Co., Allied Artists of America;
1972 Archer M. Huntington Prize Best Portrait, Hudson Valley Art Association;
1971 National Arts Club Prize, Allied Artists of America;
1970 W.G. Matchette Prize, National Watercolor Centennial;
1970 Archer M. Huntington Prize Best Portrait, Hudson Valley Art Association;
1969 Maria Cantarella Memorial Award, Allied Artists of America;
1968 Archer M. Huntington Prize Best Portrait, Hudson Valley Art Association;
1967 Best Still Life, Pennational Annual;
1966 First Honorable Mention, Pennational Annual;
1966 Archer M. Huntington Prize Best Portrait, Hudson Valley Art Association;
1965 H.E. Ogden Campbell Memorial Prize, Hudson Valley Art Association;
1964 Frank Vincent DuMond Prize, Salmugundi Club;
1964 Archer M. Huntington Prize Best Portrait, Hudson Valley Art Association;
1963 Salmagundi Club Prize, Salmugundi Club.