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Morris Kronfeld (1914-2011)

  • Morris Kronfeld (1914-2011) was a New York Modernist artist.  He studied art, biology, & art history at Brooklyn College and received a master's degree at NYU. As an art teacher and eventually district art supervisor, Kronfeld had a lifelong career with the NYC Board of Education.  Kronfeld traveled extensively every summer, painting and drawing, and exhibited in Brooklyn and Greenwich Village.

Kronfeld was born in New York City, the son of Russian-Jewish immigrants, in 1914.  He grew up moving around the New York area and the Great Depression, which began when Morris was still a teenager, formed an impression on young Morris that lasted the rest of his life.

    Kronfeld grew up a self-taught artist, practicing drawing with a childhood friend to further develop his considerable natural abilities. He studied both biology and art at Brooklyn College, where his earliest artistic successes were regularly featured in the school’s literary magazine, and he also served as a scenery artist for student theater productions.  After receiving a master’s degree at NYU and starting on a path to study art history, he gave up graduate studies and began a lifelong career with the New York City public school system. He started out as a lab assistant and met his wife, Ida, a young biology teacher at the time.

After the outbreak of World War 2, the couple moved to Biloxi, Mississippi, to serve as instructors at the Army Air Force base at Keesler Field, teaching pilots the electrical and mechanical systems of bomber aircraft.  Kronfeld began illustrating technical manuals and providing cartoons for army publications. That period turned out to be a great adventure for the young couple, and Kronfeld produced numerous works in oil and watercolor, chronicling life at the army base and reflecting on themes of the deep South.

After the war, they returned to New York with their baby son, and proceeded to raise a growing family. Morris returned to the public school system, eventually following his desire to switch fields and teach art. He spent many years teaching art at Samuel J. Tilden High School in Brooklyn, as well as frequently teaching adult ed studio art classes, and later became district art supervisor for the public schools in Queens, NY.

Although busy with full-time teaching and helping to raise a family, Kronfeld took advantage of the long summer vacations in order to pursue his talents. Summers were prolific times, and his various travels influenced his art: summers in the Catskills, and later in life his travels to Europe, Israel, and throughout the Mediterranean, as well as travels to the American West.

He exhibited on occasion in galleries in Brooklyn and at the Greenwich Village outdoor art show.

Kronfeld’s eclectic interests allowed him to experiment with a wide range of subjects, styles, and mediums. He painted in oils and watercolors, used pastels, pen and ink, and often enjoyed using found objects both as subjects and incorporating them into his work. He experimented in painting with a mixture of sand and paint to achieve unique textures, and often fashioned his own pens by whittling feathers and sticks in order to achieve distinctive effects.

    Over the years, he gravitated to certain themes again and again, especially as they allowed him to express his love for color and fluid lines. He delighted in drawing the human form, both male and female; animals, including horses, bulls, birds, cats, elephants and camels; flowers and large, leafy plants; and he created complex architectural fantasies and painted portraits. Additionally, he was influenced by his Jewish background and numerous trips to Israel; he painted scenes of Jewish life, Israeli landscapes and streetscapes, and explored the structures and shapes of calligraphy, both in English and Hebrew.

Soon after the death of his wife in 2007, at the age of 94, Kronfeld left New York to be near his daughter in Santa Barbara, CA. In Santa Barbara, he met another artist, Judi Doernberg, and with her experienced a new phase of creativity.

He passed away in Santa Barbara in October 2011 at the age of 97.

    We would like to thank David Kronfeld and his family for bringing Morris' art and legacy to Lost Art Salon.
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