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533 West Rustic Road.
Santa Monica, California 90402
Echoes of Sergei Bongart reverberate throughout the art world. Students call to renew memories and anecdotes are repeated. It provides a tremendous amount of solace to know how well loved and appreciated he was. An exceptional person, he led a colorful, exciting life and possessed an unusual ability to relate to persons from all walks of life. These encounters fed his creative forces and contributed to the rich texture and pattern of his very being. He sought the essences of life through his art, poetry, and relationships.
ANSWERS TO QUIRES
NO! Sergei was never a Soviet. Bongart put his life on the line minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour, and day-by-day. Not complying with the doctrine of the Soviet regime, and refusing to paint Soviet propaganda, placed his life in peril. Bongart was very much aware of the consequences of his actions; he could not compromise! He was true to himself and his art. Sergei Bongart lived every day of his life in fear of being arrested and executed. It is difficult to realize how one lives, and functions, with fear of this magnitude.
An artist friend, and fellow student at the academy with Sergei, was very open in his art as well as with his political views. He expressed himself verbally and artistically. He paid the price. One day the young student did not show up for class . . . he just disappeared! Every one knew what had happened but no one spoke a word . . . Complete silence! Chaos was the rule and fear the tool.
Sergei expressed himself very emotionally while relating this story; stating the young artist was the most talented person Sergei had ever encountered in his entire life. In class when the young artist would begin to paint, all students would gather behind him and stand in absolute silence, watching in awe. So immersed in his painting, as though in a daze, he was completely oblivious to his surroundings. One day, not having needed supplies, he slowly removed his shirt and began tearing it into pieces to use for cleaning his brushes as he painted.
Sergei learned his lessons well. There was another example, even closer to his heart. His own father was arrested and banished to Siberia where he was tortured. Roman returned home much later a broken man. He died soon after. No, Sergei Bongart was never a Soviet. As for his art, Bongart is Russian through and through. His teacher and mentor, who most influenced him at the art academy, Peter Kotov, was a pupil of Iliya Efimovich Repin, the fountain head of Russian traditional art.
Sergei Bongart's most talented students received scholarships. After several years of study they became assistants. Peter Liashkov, Del Gish, Dan McCaw, Sunny Apinchapong, Ron Lukas, Ovanes Berberian, Guido Frick, and Joseph Mendez have continued to teach in the Russian tradition of the Masters. If one browses the Internet Sergei Bongart's students proudly display their connection to the Master.
Sergei Bongart wrote no essays, treatise, notes, and gave no formulas on how to paint! He was vehemently opposed to "limiting" students with formulas, it was against his philosophy and teachings. All information to the contrary should be ignored. Those artists who belong to that elite group understand Bongart gave the student wings to soar. It is determinant on the artist's own volition of how high.
Guido Frick: About the painting process . . . "It was Sergei Bongart who opened my eyes and heart, giving me the ability to mirror my own personality; which gives the painting soul, heart and power."
Residing in the quaint tree lined Santa Monica Rustic Canyon, studio of Sergei Bongart, and formally Nicolai Fechin, I continue to engage in one art form or another. Most recently completing the handbook for students. It was started twelve years before the death of Sergei. We reviewed the Hawthorne and Henri books in regards to what form worked best for students, we then created our own format. The book was on hold for many years, circumstances prevented its completion.