Best known as one of originators of the photorealist movement born out of the turbulent late 60’s and early 70’s, Ben Schonzeit’s arresting, lyrical paintings can be found in the collections of prominent art institutions and galleries worldwide.
While his photorealist work has brought him the most acclaim, the breadth and depth of Schonzeit’s canon cannot be easily categorized. He is a self described polymath whose work can range from cubist to surrealist and back to photorealist again.
His artistic energies are rarely at rest. When he’s not painting a monumental photorealist canvas, he’s sketching and writing in a journal while on holiday, or drawing live models in a modern day salon in the company of other notable artists, or creating miniature watercolor masterpieces on the corners of blank envelopes.
It is these gorgeous envelopes that caught my eye one day while visiting Schonzeit at his airy, expansive studio in Soho. Over the years, he’s painted several hundred of them, the earliest versions illustrated missives sent to his young sons at summer camp. More recent envelopes feature tiny portraits, often inspired by images that have caught Schonzeit’s eye while perusing the morning newspaper. Vintage stamps culled from a voluminous collection assembled by his late mother in law complete these compact compositions. Into these elaborately illustrated envelopes go handwritten letters, more sketches or watercolors and various personal and creative fillips from the artist. All together, it’s a compact piece of epistolary heaven.
This collection of photos is a paean to the artistic process, and to Ben Schonzeit, whose generosity, warmth and otherworldly talent always leave me inspired. --Kimberly M. Wang
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