Bernard Childs Biography

Bernard Childs




Bernard Childs, painter and printmaker, was born in Brooklyn, New York on September 1,1910, to Russian immigrant parents. He spent his childhood in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and in 1928 was granted a scholarship to the University of Pennsylvania. After two years at the university, he moved to New York to pursue his art career, studying by night at the Art Students League with Kimon Nicolaides. At this time, Childs also met the Danish silversmith Peer Smed, about whom he remarked: "From this great craftsman I learned the beauty of metals, the feel of them in my hands, the excitement of fashioning them and the use of the special tools that bring them to life."

The Depression made it difficult for him to pursue art, and in the late 1930s he took a job as a machinist before his deployment to the South Pacific with the US Navy during World War II. Surviving a kamikaze attack, he was discharged and sent back to New York to recuperate. After two years, he was able to pursue art once more, and in 1947 he began his studies in New York with Amédée Ozenfant. Childs, with the aid of the G.I. Bill, moved to Europe in 1951, living for a year in Italy where he had his first major solo exhibiton at the Galleria dell'Obellisco in Rome. He then settled in Paris, where he remained for the next fifteen years, established himself a part of the Abstract vanguard of Europe. In 1954, while spending a few months at Atelier 17 in Paris, he combined his interest in metal and knowledge of industrial tools to make experimental intaglio prints, using power tools to incise the plates. He referred to these prints as “power drypoints” and he quickly gained a reputation as a pioneer in experimental Abstract printmaking.

A prolific international exhibition career soon developed, with Childs showing in France, Germany, Japan, and the U.S. He held his first solo museum exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam in 1955. Art critics Pierre Restany, Edouard Jaguer, and Ragnar von Holten wrote favourable reviews, bolstering his standing in the art world. Despite these successes, Childs remained somewhat apart from his peers, not wanting to be labeled as one kind of artist or another. He moved once more to New York in 1966 but traveled frequently, including to Spain, Hawaii, Japan, Egypt, Germany, Sweden, Puerto Rico. As well, he traveled frequently between his studio at the Chelsea Hotel in New York to another in Paris.

By the late 1960s Childs had expanded his oeuvre to include three dimensional works that explored light and color. He created a series of illuminated acrylic sheets engraved with symbols, showing them at the Storm King Gallery in Moutainville, New York, in 1969. He continued to work in lighted sculpture until a stroke temporarily impaired him in 1978; however, he continued to paint and draw through his recovery and was active in the art world until his death on March 27, 1985.

Childs' work was included in numerous international solo and group exhibitions, and is represented in the collections of the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, Massachusetts; the Brooklyn Museum, New York; the Fogg Art Museum and the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, Massachusetts; the Zimmerli Art Museum, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the New York Public Library, and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Newark Public Library, New Jersey; the Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris; the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, California; the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C; the Worcester Art Museum, Massachusetts; and the Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, Ohio.



Selected solo exhibitions:
2019 - Jason McCoy Gallery (Online Exhibition)

2017 - Anders Wahlstedt Fine Art, New York,
2013 - Jason McCoy Gallery, New York
2012 - Jason McCoy Gallery, New York
1994; 1998 - Hirschl & Adler Galleries, New York
1986 - Galerie Alfred Kren, Cologne
1985 - Palazzo Soriani, Biblioteche Pubbliche Comunali, Milan
1982 - Honolulu Academy of Arts, Honolulu
1973 - New Bertha Schaefer Gallery, New York
1971 - Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
1969 - Storm King Art Center, Mountainville, NY
1968 - Boston Public Library, Boston
1967 - Galerie Aronowitsch, Stockholm
1966 - Weyhe Gallery, New York
1964 - New York University, New York; 
Galerie der Editions Rothe, Heidenberg
1963 - Transair, Malmo
1962 - Galerie St Germain, Paris
1961 - Roopa Gallery, Bombay; 
National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi; Académie des Beaux Arts, Djogjakarta; Academy of Fine Arts, Bangkok; University of Hawaii, Honolulu; Tokyo Gallery, Tokyo
1960 - Tokyo Gallery, Tokyo
1959 - Galerie Ariel, Paris; 
Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam
1958 - Galerie Parnass, Wuppertal; 
Print Club, Philadelphia; Galerie Inge Ahlers, Mannheim
1957 - George M. Wittenborn, New York
1956 - Nordisk Kunsthandel - Galerie d'Art Moderne, Copenhagen; 
Galerie Kléber, Paris
1955 - Zimmergalerie Franck, Frankfurt-am-Main
1953 - Galerie Breteau, Paris
1952 - Galeria Obelisco, Rome

Selected group exhibitions:
2021 - ARMOR, Jason McCoy Gallery, New York
2018 - Selections from the Department of Drawings and Prints: Hidden and Displayed, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, November 1, 2018 - January 27, 2019 ("Barcarolle", 1958, printing plate and two variant impressions)
2016 - BLACK & WHITE: Modern and Contemporary Positions, Jason McCoy Gallery, New York
2013 - American Gestures: Abstract Expressionism, Museum of Fine Arts Boston; Atelier 17: Women Artists and Avant-Garde Prints, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
2012 - Paper Bend, Jason McCoy Gallery, New York
2010 - Galaxy Cosmos, Jason McCoy Gallery, New York
2009 - The Pull of Experiment: Postwar American Printmaking, Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut
2007 - Options within Realism, Jason McCoy Gallery, New York
2006 - Abstract Expressionist Prints from the Charles Randall Dean Collection, Pollock-Krasner House and Study Center, East Hampton, New York
2005 - Sets, Series, and Suites: Contemporary Prints, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
2003 - Expressive Impressions, Three Decades of Abstract American Prints, Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens, Jacksonville, FL; Mid-Century Graphics, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts
2001-2003 - The Stamp of Impulse Abstract Expressionist Prints, Worcester Art Museum, Worcester; Traveled to The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland; Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth; The Parrish Art Museum, Southampton, NY; Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University, Evanston
1999 - Omens of Millenium, Pacifico Fine Art, New York
1990 - A Spectrum of Innovation, Color in American Printmaking 1890-1960. Worcester Art Museum, Worcester, MA
1985 - The Spontaneous Gesture, Australian National Gallery, Canberra
1982 - Treffpunkt Parnass, International Avant-Garde at Galerie Parnass, Wuppertal, 1949-65: Goethe Institut, Paris; Musées de la Ville de Bourges, Bourges ; Goethe House, London and Edinburgh
1976 - New York '76, Riksutstalliningar, Stockholm and elsewhere in Sweden; Tokyo International Print Biennial, Tokyo
1967 - Premio International Biella per l'incisione, Biella

1966 - Whitney Annual, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
1963-1964 - Salon des Nouvelles Réalités, Paris
1962, '60 - International Prints, Cincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati, Ohio
1960, '59, '58 - Galérie Ariel, Paris
1959 - Documenta II, Kassel
1958 - Americans in Europe, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Beloit, Racine
1958/1957 - Galérie du Dragon, Paris
1956-1964 - Salon des Comparaisons, Paris
1955 - 1959 - "Phases" (Multiple venues)
1955 - Peintres américains en France 1955 oeuvres récentes, American Legion Paris Post No. 1, Paris; Exposizione Il Gesto, Rassegna Internazionale delle forme libere, Galeria Schettini, Milan
1953-1959 - Salon des Réalités Nouvelles, Paris