Steel Girders & Steeplechases
The Life & Art of Bernard H. Berntsen

Clifford Miller

Born in 1900 in Ostre Aker, Norway, Bernhard Berntsen came to America when he was 19, settling in New York. Soon he was building skyscrapers, threading across open I-beams hundreds of feet in the air; at the same time the open steel and the men who worked there became the subjects of his oils, pastels and charcoals. Over the decades following Berntsen worked with artistic luminaries including Deigo Rivera, Suzuki and J. S. Curry and extended his vision beyond high-steel to rural landscapes of New York state, Pennsylvania and the horse country of Virginia where he spent his last years.

Today his work hangs from the Royal Palace in Norway to the Vesterheim, the Iron Workers headquarters in Washington, D.C. to galleries in Brooklyn and scores of private collections.

Imagine a man 50 stories above the city streets, perched on scaffolding, dressed in overalls and a hardhat, with a paintbrush in his hand. He is not painting the walls of a newly built skyscraper; he is painting a canvas with his interpretation of the city before him. It could be lunch time or late in the afternoon, when most of the crew has left the structure forming beneath them, but whatever time of day, the task is the same: capture as much of the feel and the sights of the "high steel" as possible before the sun bids adieu to the grand structure that consumes his day.

The man I describe is Bernhard Berntsen and the work he is involved with is the building of some of our great American cities. All the while he captures the sights of his job with oil paints and grease pencil drawings. Early in his painting career, Berntsen painted scenes mostly from the construction sites ("Steel Girders") where he worked and from the daily life around him.

Several decades after he began painting, his eye turned to the equestrian world. ("Steeplechases") There are those who will be remembered for their contributions to science and progress, those who captured a moment in time or an idea through the arts, and those who made a lasting impression on our spirits as humanitarians. Bernhard Berntsen will be remembered for all of these things.

Whether he was helping to build one of the great skyscrapers of New York City or putting the final touches on an oil painting on a Saturday afternoon, Berntsen was making impressions that last to this day. He was also making lasting impressions on the people he met along the way. He had a love of life and a love of people that spanned most of the 20th Century.

112 pages, 9" x 11", Hardcover, B&W, © 2001
Order Number: LOP530............$24.95

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