Frank Mason (1921 - 2009)
Frank Mason, an American artistic icon, has been described as the artist who carried the torch of realism through Abstract Expressionism. He was a true renaissance man in his humanistic concern for the figure and an artist with the same aesthetic concerns as a seventeenth-century painter. In his paintings and drawings he brought to bear his remarkable knowledge of traditional art styles – all that he learned from the Old Masters. Mason’s paintings are dynamic, broadly painted, baroque in spirit and form, and art-historical in focus. It is painting and drawing that Rubens, Vermeer, Hals, Velasquez and Rembrandt would have understood. Frank Herbert Mason was born in Cleveland in 1921 and moved with his family at the onset of the Great Depression to New York City, where he became one of the first students to enroll in Mayor LaGuardia’s experimental Music and Art High School. Not long afterwards, he found his calling at the age of 16 at the Art Students League of New York in the classroom of Frank Vincent Dumond – whose students included Georgia O’Keefe, Norman Rockwell and John Marin. Mason rapidly evolved as a traditional artist and became the youngest president at the League. A turning point in Mason’s career was his introduction to the Director of the Louvre Laboratoire, Jacques Maroger. Maroger’s investigations into the lost painting techniques of the 17th and 18th Century Masters would have strong influence on Mason. Together, they sought to uncover one of the real mysteries of art history, the secrets to the Old Master’s mediums and techniques, passed down through a strict guild system, which had died long before the 19th Century. In addition to his renowned paintings and drawings, Frank Mason was one of the most acclaimed American teachers of our time. He was an instructor of Fine Arts at the Art Students League in New York City for fifty-seven years. He is the only American painter to receive a commission for a series of paintings in a church in Venice, Italy (The Life of Saint Anthony of Padua, installed in the Church of San Giovanni de Malta) and the first artist since Caravaggio to be awarded the prestigious Cross of Merit, Prima Classe, by the order of the Knights of Malta. Armed with the knowledge of the 16th and 17th Century Maters techniques from his investigations at the Louvre Laboratoire, Frank Mason was a tireless champion of preserving historical works of art and challenged the cleaning techniques employed by institutions around the world. He campaigned against the destruction of national treasures to The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Vatican and the Frick, eventually joining ArtWatch International to help supervise the conservation of masterpieces worldwide. Frank Mason’s portraits, figures, landscapes and religious paintings are collected by important public and private collections worldwide, his work has been commissioned by Prince Giacomo Colonna of Venice, Averell Harriman, King Faisal of Saudi Arabia and Bishop John Cardinal Wright of the Vatican. His work can be found in New York’s St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral, the National Academy of Art & Design and the Museum of the City of New York.
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