Biography

 

 

"There is only one-way to describe Sergei Bongart: Original! His showmanship legendary, his anecdotes still being recited, his painting and poetry... flourishes of genius. A European gentleman, last of the Old Russian Intelligentsia, brilliant never dull, he was aware and even enjoyed the notoriety of his sharp wit. Exuding an exotic foreign origin, enhanced by a heavy accent, he fed the romantic intrigues and shreds of gossip, which whirled about him. Bongart the "Serious Artist†manifests itself in an enormous body of work and is evident through his extraordinary following. Living life to the fullest, lavish in his life style and the spending of energy... he gave his all!â€
From the book: "SERGEI BONGART... touched by the gods!" by Patricia LeGrande Bongart

Sergei Bongart  Russian Master painter, Poet, and graduate of the Russian Academy of Arts in Kiev. Born in 1918, the only child of Anna Ivanovna Bongart, and Roman Ivanovich Bongart. They were cultured; well educated and prominent in their community before the Stalin Regime came to power. Roman, a poet and Olympian gold medallist was also known for his stock of well-bred horses. Visits to museums, the opera, and ballet were a part of the young boy's life. Sergei credits his father for having instilled, in him, the love of art and poetry. Sergei: "I began to go to the opera at three years of age. As a result, I learned almost every aria of the most famous operas. When my family gave a party, I would post a large "CONCERT†sign on the wall with thumbtacks . . . immediately everyone was paralyzed with fear! Then, standing on a chair, I began to scream my head off and they were unable to stop me, Family and friends were terrorized until the 'Opera' was completed. Singing all parts, one aria after another, female parts, male parts, tenor, bass, or baritone . . . all had been memorized and I was performing.â€

Roman having observed his son's sketchpad recognized the signs of early talent. He took Sergei by the hand (the young Bongart protesting loudly) and practically dragged him to meet a well-known artist, Michiel Yarovoy. The Old Master charmed and regaled Sergei with stories of art, artists and the philosophy of life, captivating Sergei. Bongart later exclaimed: "In one evening, I was forever changed! This old man was so great, had such an unbelievable personality, he made me love art in fifteen minutes. I was possessed from the very first night.†Roman's assessment had been correct. Sergei was later admitted to the Academy of Art in Kiev as the youngest student ever accepted. Studying five years at the Academy Sergei considered the last three years, under the tutelage of the prominent Master, Piotr Kotov especially valuable. Kotov had been a pupil of Iliya Efimovich Repin, The fountainhead of the dominant tradition of Russian painting.

Sergei's future and life were torn apart by the turmoil of World War II. Roman was whisked away in the dead of night by the K.G.B. He was sent to Siberia where he was tortured and died soon after. Anna had died earlier meeting the same fate those hundreds of thousands suffered; Stalin's "forced starvationâ€. Sergei was forced to flee his native land by the horror of war in the shattered ruins of The Third Reich. Desperate, and on the run, his art became the compass for his life. Using his talent to sustain himself he studied in Prague, Vienna, and Munich while awaiting a visa before arriving in this country. Bongart's knowledge, charismatic personality and easy confidence soon attracted attention in America. A whirlwind of social events and professional life gave a sense of newfound freedom. Bongart launched an art school in Los Angeles. His artwork flourished and the school attracted students and celebrities from around the globe.

Many celebrities became close friends. James Cagney, Carroll O'Conner, Gene Hackman, Jack Lemmon, Yvette Mimieux, Jeanne Crain, Carol Baker, Judge Older (presided over the Manson trial), Jack Bailey, Harry Morgan, Ralph Bellamy, Henry Mancini, Jonathan Winters, Lalo Schiffrin, Stella Roman, Madelaine Rue, Dorothy Kirsten, Carl Hubenthaler, (political cartoonist), were among them. Bongart and Cagney traveled throughout Europe together. The purpose of the trip; Cagney was eager to show the studio of Spanish painter Joaquin Sorolla to Sergei. They were guests of King Carlos of Spain. He arranged an elaborate private dinner party for them, including a bullfight for entertainment. Cagney stayed five months while Sergei traveled on to fulfill a life-long dream of seeing Egypt. Bongart: "Egypt conquered me completely! Contrasts were so great . . . it is a paradise for artists!†The Bongart lithograph portfolio contains some art from this period. Bongart stayed nine months, returning in 1964. Friends had notified him the Nicolai Fechin Studio was for sale. In December of 64, Sergei moved into the former studio of Nicholai Fechin. Later he also purchased a log cabin, with acreage, near Rexburg, Idaho and quickly added buildings for a second school. His heart took a big leap when he visited this part of Idaho and found it was the same latitude as his home in Russia. There were magpies in the trees, lush lilac bushes and the same animal life. At last he felt at home! Many of his paintings came from this rustic setting.

But closer to Bongart's heart . . . He attracted real talent! Students came from Otis Art Institute, Chouinard Art School, Colleges and Universities. Many had already received degrees in art. He taught all levels from beginners to those who held Masters Degrees. They all came to learn how to paint! Many are now Nationally know artists. Students with the most talent were awarded scholarships. If they did well they later became assistants. An interesting sidelight: Sergei had purchased a beautiful new car. While learning to drive he accidentally mistook the accelerator for the brake. Suddenly! The car lurched forward and hurdled into a grove of trees. Finally coming to a halt, Sergei extracted himself and looked down at his feet, there lay a pile of chrome. It had been stripped from both sides of the car. Sergei: "I am good painter but not such good driver!†He never drove again. As a result, one of the duties the assistant performed involved driving Segei back and forth to school and to Idaho. The driver was greatly rewarded because the ever-charming Bongart regaled the listener with stories of life and information on art. Searching the Internet for "Sergei Bongart†one will find many links from former students who were inspired and taught by Bongart. They teach and foster the traditional Russian Method he brought from Russia. Sergei Bongart was one of the most sought-after and foremost art instructors of this traditional Russian method in the United States.

The last twelve years were productive and very happy for Sergei. He did some of his best work at this time. Following his own advice he was still a "student†searching and discovering new things. Designing the new studio gave him great pleasure. The well-built studio with large skylights, massive beams with surround stereo music lets one become lost in such a metropolitan city. The French doors open to the sound of the stream, which flows in front of the studio. It is extremely comforting as it makes its peaceful sound rolling into the ocean a block away. I can still hear Sergei standing on the balcony, roaring like a lion, reciting his poetry in Russian to his friend standing on the floor below. Sergei loved both the Santa Monica and the Idaho studios. In Idaho he had time to read from his vast library of Russian, German and English books. Most importantly, he could paint with only the magpies as his audience.

Exhibitions, awards and major articles with reproductions in magazines, art catalogues and newspapers in the United States and Europe are too numerous to list. There are three books by authors: Claudia Meyer, Mary Balcomb and Patricia LeGrande Bongart. The selected list of credits below was used in a brochure for an art exhibition held at the Cowley Gallery in Los Angeles California.


EXHIBITIONS

METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART, New York
NATIONAL ACADEMY OF DESIGN, New York
MUSEUM OF RUSSIAN ART, Kiev, Russia
MUSEUM OF UKRAINIAN ART, Kiev, Russia
UKRAINIAN ACADEMY OF ARTS, Kiev, Russia
BROOKS MEMORIAL ART GALLERY, Memphis, Tennessee
LOS ANGELES COUNTY MUSEUM. Los Angeles, California
NATIONAL ACADEMY GALLERIES, New York, New York
LAGUNA BEACH ART GALLERY, Laguna Beach, California
OAKLAND ART MUSEUM, Oakland, California
CHARLES AND EMMA FRYE ART MUSEUM, Seattle, Washington
FISHER GALLERIES, University of So. California, Los Angeles, California
UNIVERSITY OF SANTA CLARA GALLERY, Santa Clara, California
COWIE GALLERY, Los Angeles, California
OALZELL HATFIELD GALLERIES, Los Angeles, California
SANTA CRUZ ART LEAGUE GALLERY, Santa Cruz, California
ALL CALIFORNIA INVITATIONAL ART EXHIBITION, Laguna Beach, California
FESTIVAL OF ARTS, Laguna Beach, California
LOS ANGELES COUNTY FAIR, ALL CALIFORNIA ART SHOW, Los Angeles, California
CALIFORNIA STATE FAIR
LAS VEGAS ART LEAGUE GALLERY, Las Vegas, Nevada
AMERICAN WATER COLOR SOCIETY, TRAVELING EXHIBITIONS, U.S.A. SIMON PATRICH GALLERIES, Los Angeles
BLAIR GALLERIES, Taos, New Mexico
SPRINGFIELD ART MUSEUM, Springfield, Missouri
PENNSYLVANIA ACADEMY OF FINE ARTS, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
FORUM OF THE ARTS GALLERY, Ventura, California
JONES ART GALLERY, La Jolla, California
OLD TOWN GALLERY, San Diego, California
M.H. DE YOUNG MEMORIAL MUSEUM, San Francisco, California
MARKEL GALLERY LTD., New York, New York
ZACHARY-WALLER GALLERY, Los Angeles, California
EDWARD-DEAN MUSEUM OF DECORATIVE ARTS, Riverside, California
PHOEN1X ART MUSEUM, Phoenix, Arizona
NATIONAL ACADEMY OF WESTERN ART, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

THE FRANKLIN MINT GALLERY OF AMERICAN ART, Franklin Center, Pennsylvania

AWARDS

TOP AWARD Competition of Young Artists of Ukrania
1st PRIZE-Mid-South Contest, 1952
2nd PRIZE-National American Show, Los Angeles (portrait), 1955
2nd PRIZE-National American Show, Los Angeles, California (landscape), 1055
GOLD MEDAL-Painters and Sculptors Club, Los Angeles, California (landscape). I 055
1st PRIZE MEDAL -Painters and Sculptors Club, Los Angeles, California (portrait )
1st PRIZE MEDAL Valley Artists Guild, Los Angeles, California (figure), 1956
1st PRIZE-California Art Club (landscape), 1957
1st PRIZE MEDAL-Painters and Sculptors Club, Los Angeles, California (still-life), l')S7
SPECIAL JURY AWARD-Painters and Sculptors Club, Los Angeles, California (figure and landscape), 1958
1st PRIZE MEDAL National Orange Show, Pomona, California (portrait), 1958
1st PRIZE MEDAL-Artists of the Southwest, Los Angeles, California (watercolor), 1050
GRAND NATIONAL GOLD MEDAL-American Artists Professional League, New York (watercolor), 1959
1st PRIZE-American Artists Professional League, New York (still-life), 1959
1st PURCHASE PRIZE-California State Fair, Sacramento, California (watercolor)
1st PRIZE-California State Fair, Sacramento, California (still-life), 1959
1st PRIZE MEDAL-Artists of the Southwest, Los Angeles, California (oil), 1961
2nd PRIZE-Los Angeles County Fair (oil), 1961
1st PRIZE-Laguna Beach Art Association, Laguna Beach, California, 1961, 1962
1st PRIZE-$1000-West Coast Oil Painting Exhibition, Frye Museum, Seattle, Washington
SPECIAL AWARD OF MERIT-American Artists Professional League, New York (still-life)
EDWARD MANET AWARD-Frye Museum, Seattle, Washington (still-life), 1964
SENATOR GEORGE D. HAMMOND AWARD-Academic Artists Association, Springfield, Massachusetts (drawing), 1965
C.F.S. AWARD American Watercolor Society, New York, 1965
SPECIAL AWARD National Orange Show, Pomona, California (figure painting), 1966
2nd PRIZE-Southern California Teachers Show, Los Angeles, California (acrylic), 1966
MERIT AWARD IN RECOGNITION OF OUTSTANDING ACCOMPLISHMENT Los Angeles All-City Outdoor Art Festival, Los Angeles, California (acrylic), 1966
2nd PRIZE-National Orange Show, California 1967
1st PRIZE-International Watercolor Exhibition, San Diego, California, 1967
MAX LIEBERMAN PRIZE West Coast Painting Competition, Frye Museum, Seattle, Washington 1967
1st PRIZE-Society of Western Artists- M. H. De Young Memorial Museum, San Francisco, California (portrait), 1968
1st PRIZE-Society of Western Artists M. H. Dc Young Memorial Museum, San Francisco, California (still-life), 1969
SILVER MEDAL WITH $400-American Watercolor Society, New York, New York, 1969 WINSLOW HOMER CASH AWARD-Watercolor U.S.A.. Springfield, Missouri, 1974
GOLD MEDAL National Academy of Western Art, Oklahoma City
 


Sergei Bongart is listed in the Dictionary of International Biographies, published in Great Britain, Who's Who in the World, Who's Who in America, and Who's Who in American Art.

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