BERT PUMPHREY (1916-2002)

Bertram (Bert) Pumphrey 1916-2002

by Burt Pumfrey

La Poeta by Bert Pumphrey

Bert Pumphrey was born in Salt Lake City, Utah in 1916. He entered the Art Institute of Chicago at age fifteen; however, his career at the school was cut short when school authorities discovered his age and expelled him. Subsequently, he received a scholarship to the University of California at Los Angeles. He had a one-man show at the Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco in the late 1940s, and moved to Mexico soon afterwards, where he has lived and painted ever since.

His subject matter is imaginative, not reproductive, and what he paints gives the feeling of Mexico, past and present, although never identifying with any specific locale. Since moving to and working in Mexico, he has had nine major one-man shows there and, during the 1960s, had shows in the Virgin and in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

His urban surrealist painting style is popular in Mexico and is regaining popularity in the United States. A favorite theme was his Hasidic Rabbis — joyful, inquisitive, jumping, dancing, but always very dignified.

He was represented by the Cory Galleries in San Francisco during the 1960s and 1970s. Cory Galleries represented other artists such as Leroy Neiman and Pascal Cucaro, among others. In their May, 1969 show, the entire collection of sixty-seven paintings was purchased within several hours of the opening by one collector, and the show was sold out.

An artist with very definite ideas of his own, Pumphrey has almost entirely rejected the traditional square or rectangle as the basic shape for a painting. He prefers long, thin, verticals or horizontals. He rejects canvas as well — using masonite, on which he lays eight thin coats of white gesso. Then come the rich and vibrant colors, through which the sharp edge of a palette knife may cut back to the white underpainting. To achieve sharpness of lines, he has designed his own knives. He also has turned from tradition in another way, in that he prefers to paint flat on a table, discarding the easel.

EXHIBITIONS:

Solo Exhibit, Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco, 1948

La Nueva Posada, Art Shows in the Garden, Lake Chapala, Mexico, 1955The Cory Galleries, 360 Geary St., San Francisco, May, 1969

The Cory Galleries, 360 Geary St., San Francisco, August, 1970

The Cory Galleries, 377 Jefferson St., Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco, 1973

Casa de la Cultura, Delegacion Municipal de Ajijic, Plaza Principal, Mexico, 1978

Galeria AXIXICC, Ajijic, Mexico, 1985

EXHIBITIONS:

Solo Exhibit, Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco, 1948

La Nueva Posada, Art Shows in the Garden, Lake Chapala, Mexico, 1955

The Cory Galleries, 360 Geary St., San Francisco, May, 1969

The Cory Galleries, 360 Geary St., San Francisco, August, 1970

The Cory Galleries, 377 Jefferson St., Fisher

One comment

  1. Acquisition note: I found this piece (and a number of others in my collection) at an antique shop in Tempe, Arizona called Rare Lion. The owners there, Gary and Michelle Perkins, have exceptional taste for works of art – with a major love of representations of the old west.

    Phoenix and it’s surrounding suburbs is a fantastic place for any collector to acquire 2nd market pieces. As much as I love to support artists and galleries, at the time I purchased this piece as a graduate student, their prices were simply out of my league. I discovered an amazing wealth of beautifully framed, reasonably priced, original paintings and prints in the antique shops of the area. I expect this to be the case in any large city with a snowbird population. Other finds in my collection from Rare Lion in Tempe are by artists: Jaime Oates; Prescott Chaplin; William Brice; Jacob Landau; and José Maria Servin. All acquired between 1998 – 2002.

    Find Rare Lion online at: http://www.rarelionantiques.com/

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