“Gabriel’s belief in painting was exacting, idiosyncratic, uncompromising, ferocious.”

Jed Perl, in The New Republic

“Now that figuration has reentered the mainstream of contemporary art, Gabriel Laderman is being celebrated as one of the most challenging and outstanding painters of the last half century. Laderman is a key figure in the development of post-abstract figuration, or new realism, as it was called, during the 1960s and 70s. He became an early and important model as an artist, critic, and theorist for peers and younger painters, here and abroad. Laderman was one of the first painters to reject the conventions of abstract expressionism and collage. In its place, he brought the structural and metaphoric thinking of abstraction to perceptual representation. Standing apart from academic formulas, and from any obvious modernistic strategy, he completely rethought figuration. Laderman was able to draw on and reformulate metaphoric structures from multiple cultural sources – modernism and the early Renaissance, seventeenth-century realism and East Asian art, fusing them into new and contemporary works by experimenting with these ideas as he painted directly from nature.”

David Carbone, in Gabriel Laderman: An Unconventional Realist

“Laderman is an experimenter and innovator exploring new paths. He is attempting to offer an alternative response to that of Cezanne, that painters can become free to choose contemporary alternatives to the problem of representation[…] His work forms an important guide for young painters as the founder of a new tradition.”

Arts Magazine, May 1967


gabriel 60s


Gabriel Laderman, born in Brooklyn on December 26, 1929, cared deeply about art, picture-making and being part of a long artistic tradition. He also believed that art was essential for a good society and that aesthetics were a matter of morality, not merely taste. Through his creativity, imagination and a forceful advocacy of his ideas about art, he has captivated many viewers and influenced several generations of artists.

Gabriel started out as an Abstract Expressionist under the direct influence of Hans Hoffmann at Provincetown; Alfred Russell, Ad Reinhardt, Mark Rothko, Burgoyne Diller, Jimmy Ernst, Stanley William Hayter and Robert J. Wolff at Brooklyn College; and Willem de Kooning, whom he saw privately for crits of new work every week. He was also influenced by Paul Klee, through his Pedagogical Sketchbook, whose exercises Gabriel worked through.


"Landscape near Mt. Citheron"
“Landscape near Mt. Citheron”


He produced quite a significant body of abstract flat art from the late 40s through the mid to late 50s and some medium-sized to fairly large abstract still lifes and landscape paintings from 1954-1957 for shows at the Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute in Utica, New York and the Tanager Gallery in New York City.


"Still-Life With Drapery #1"
“Still-Life With Drapery #1”


A turning point in his career was when he was given leave after completing Basic Training in 1953 and went to Philadelphia. He later recounted in a lecture he gave at the New York Studio School that he was captivated by Indian sculptures the Philadelphia Museum of Art had on display, including many then on loan from the Ashmolean Museum. While continuing to produce a lot of abstract art, he gradually returned to figuration in the 1950s because he believed himself to be part of a tradition going all the way back to the prehistoric cave painters that included the ancient Indian sculptors and especially a series of European painters beginning with Cimabue and Giotto, and he wanted to embrace all of the art that spoke to him and not restrict his expression to Abstract Expressionism.


“Still Life II”, aka “Interior I”


After his stint in the army, Gabriel got his MFA at Cornell and was subsequently hired as a Professor of Art at SUNY-New Paltz, but left in 1959 to move back to Brooklyn and teach at Pratt Institute. During the early 60s, he painted many cityscapes as well as still lifes and some figure compositions. The big early turning point in his career as a figurative artist was his 1962 Fulbright grant, which enabled him to spend a year in Florence. The capstrone of that award year was his much-reproduced “View of Florence”, to this day one of his most famous paintings.

Laderman’s large painting of Florence, a marvelously worked out painting with care and passion extending to every visible inch, was the outstanding work.

Review of the 1964 Nine Realists show at the Schoelkopf Gallery, Art News, Vol. 62, No. 10, Feb. 1964


"View of Florence"
“View of Florence”


Through the second half of the 60s and the 70s, he produced numerous landscapes. In this 1973 view, “Berkshire Valley” or “Hawks over Mount Greylock”, Gabriel – a great lover and collector of classic Japanese paintings and prints – paid homage to the Japanese painter Yosa Buson.


"Berkshire Valley"
“Berkshire Valley”


Later in the 70s, Gabriel was to have an opportunity to see Asia in person, as he accompanied his wife, Carol, to Malaysia from 1975-76 and again in 1982. In Malaysia, Gabriel was stimulated for the first time to paint the grains in the wood on the wall of his studio in still lifes, and was also captivated by the Anglo-Indian buildings and birds in the capital, Kuala Lumpur, then in the beginning of its construction boom.


"Kuala Lumpur #3"
“Kuala Lumpur #3”


While Gabriel’s style changed somewhat in Malaysia, a much bigger style change took place starting around 1983, probably in part due to his witnessing a murder. His color became more vivid, his brushstrokes became looser and he started to paint more thickly. The 80s are the period of several multi-paneled works including the “Murder and Its Consequences” triptych (1984), “The House of Death and Life” (1984-85), which has six panels, and the “Murder for Profit” triptych (1986-87). He also produced the two “Family Romance” paintings (1988-89), “Two Women on the Edge” (1994), “Dance of Death” (1995-96), the two “This Happens” paintings (1996-97) and quite a few other very large paintings with narrative content in the 80s, 90s and 2000s. He also began working with pastels extensively around 1982, and continued to use this medium of expression for the rest of his life.


In 1984 there was Murder and Its Consequences, and in 1984-85, House of Death and Life. These multipanel paintings were made up of beautifully plotted, brilliantly juxtaposed episodes. Now, by merging a complex narrative into a single allegorical moment, Laderman has deepened the dynamics. In Dance of Death, the life-against-death theme is fueled by the painter’s hard-won ability to invent fully dimensional figures. This large picture – it is seven-and-a-half feet wide – is a stylistic daredevil act, a nerve-jangling combination of hard-focus realism, impastoed paint, high-pitched expressionist color, and angled neo-Cubist forms[…]some of the most inventive figure painting of the last 20 to 30 years.

Jed Perl, Death and Realism, The New Republic, April 20 1998


"The House of Death and Life"
“The House of Death and Life”


Gabriel had a long career as an exhibiting artist. Aside from a slew of group shows he participated in, notably including the “22 Realists” at the Whitney in 1970, he had numerous one-man shows at the Robert Schoelkopf Gallery, starting in 1962. After Mr. Schoelkopf’s death, Gabriel had several more one-man shows with the Peter Tatistcheff Gallery. There were also galleries that represented him in other parts of the United States, including the Contemporary Realist/Hackett-Freedman Gallery in San Francisco, Jessica Darraby in Los Angeles and Sunne Savage in Boston, and among several one-man museum shows, perhaps one of the most interesting took place in 1982 at the Muzium Negara (National Museum) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and exhibited his cityscapes of Malaysia’s capital.

His international reputation was not only due to his art itself, but also his reach as a lecturer and professor of art. In addition to his full-time teaching positions at Queens College/CUNY, Pratt Institute and SUNY-New Paltz, he also had long associations with the Art Student’s League, the New York Studio School, and Yale University. Aside from that, he was a Visiting Professor at numerous American universities, spent many summers as a faculty member of summer art institutes such as Yale Summer School at Norfolk, Skowhegan, BU Tanglewood Institute and the Queens College Summer Landscape Program at Caumsett State Park, which he founded as Chairman of the school’s Art Department. He was also hired by the U.S. Information Service to lecture in Australia, Indonesia, Thailand, Taiwan and Japan in 1976.

Among the museums whose collections include work by Gabriel are the Chicago Art Institute, Cleveland Museum of Art, Indianapolis Museum of Art, Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, National Academy of Design in New York, National Gallery of Art and National Museum of American Art in Washington, DC and Muzium Negara in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

“The aim of the artist is to make true and believable this complex fable of his imagination and use it to convince his public of the reality as physical fact, experienced through art, of this world, the world he has in fact fantasized or hallucinated, even though it may appear to be mundane, ordinary “nature copy”. The hope of the artist is that the experience of this world will reach through the eye of the beholder to change his heart and mind as it evokes a poetic response.”

Gabriel Laderman, Catalogue, Brooklyn College Art Department: Past and Present, 1942-1977