The Art of Bernard S. Clendenin
Starting with the time Bernard Clendenin was awarded a scholarship to the Art Students League of New York at age seventeen, Clendenin has been involved with art and major artists. Even as he served his country during World War II, he continued his art education courtesy of the University of Wisconsin. Returning to the United States, from the Pacific Theatre, Clendenin re-enrolled in the Art Students League. This time he became a “monitor” of his class with the responsibility for hiring all models and providing instructions to new students three days a week while still a student himself. He frequently visited the “Society of Illustrators” where the most successful illustrators of the day hung out. They regaled him with their humorous stories and conquests, much of it too heady for a young man not yet as worldly as they.
Over the ensuing years, Clendenin improved his art, becoming one of the premier colorists in Southern California. Concentrating on the figure; he has infused his paintings with imagination, creativity and compassion. His paintings and drawings have sold very well through the Jewish Community Centers, the Long Beach Museum of Art, private shows and galleries until his present wife (Arlene McGunn Clendenin) said, “No more”. She refused to sell another painting as the loss of the painting, for her, was too great.
Prior to their marriage in 1983, Bernard’s work was picked as one of sixty paintings to be exhibited in the Orange Show. There were six thousand paintings submitted for consideration for this noteworthy exhibition. In one large Los Angeles exhibition, the judges, in a split decision, argued bitterly for and against awarding him first prize for his work. The painting submitted was a pregnant woman with her legs spread, the raw, emotional content of the painting was the source of the debate. As one of the quintessential artist of his time, Clendenin paints with a great degree of sensitivity. In most of his work he seems to know instinctively where he is going. Defying the trend towards abstraction he continuously works at bringing out the underlying character in his subjects. Time has always been the most important commodity according to Clendenin and each piece he does is done with care and understanding as he looks for the inward truth a person displays. His work is infused with silent vitality, amazing color and depth of feeling.
Clendenin’s fine art paintings have been shown in the Perreau-Saussine Gallery, shows from East to West coast and hung in the collections of individual collectors and movie stars of note. On one occasion, visiting a businessman and friend Clendenin was proud to see one of his drawings hanging next to a Degas in a room filled with old masters. As a people painter, Clendenin has done portraits of Susan Strasburg, Lindsey Wagner and Barry Goldwater to name just a few. Norman Nixon in association with Dr. William Hayling, Jr. hosted a one day showing of Clendenin’s work at the Roxbury on Sunset Boulevard in Beverly Hills, CA. The show, titled “Meet the Artist” held on November 26 th , 1991 drew a crowd of over six hundred people.
Mr. Clendenin credits much of his psychological intent in his art to the years of experience he acquired, studying people while at the same time starting and running art departments for major corporations in the space and missile industry. Clendenin worked with scientists and engineers solving complex problems associated with deep space exploration and the protection of the United States. He and his large staff received the compliments of many including the appreciation of President John F. Kennedy. Clendenin states with pride that his staff was hand picked by him because they were competent artists dedicated to perfection, mystery and utilization of their amazing talents. He pushed them consistently to go beyond the bounds of mediocrity.
There is an old masters excellence to Bernard Clendenin’s paintings coupled with a color content that brings life and joy to the observer as he/she becomes transfixed by his choice of subject matter. Content illustrates character, Clendenin says. He is ever mindful of the opportunity afforded him when Norman Rockwell invited him to spend a summer at his farm, painting and learning. Clendenin could not accept because his first wife was pregnant at the time and it was most important that he put his family obligations above his own dreams of being an artist.
Life hasn’t always been in tune with Clendenin’s idealistic hopes and he reacts in silence to some questions. Although he continually tried to get into galleries, the trend was more abstract and he refused to join the latest fads in art. His belief still is in the artist who defies convention in order to pursue the unusual and difficult.