“The Golem,” by David Aronson, 1958, encaustic on panel 57” x 64”. (all photos from David Aronson Archive via Braithwaite & Katz Communications)
American painter and sculptor David Aronson, 91, of Sudbury, Mass., passed away on July 2, 2015. He was one of the most important representatives of the Boston Expressionist movement of the 1940s, an influential force in the development of the arts in Boston for more than 60 years and professor emeritus at Boston University, where he founded the fine arts department and taught from 1955 until his retirement in 1989.
Born in Shilova, Lithuania, in 1923, Aronson immigrated to the United States at the age of 7 and lived and worked in the Boston area for his entire career. While earning his diploma at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Aronson studied with the innovative German-born artist Karl Zerbe.
Aronson’s reputation was quickly established and his art has been featured in numerous solo exhibitions in Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, New York, Los Angeles and Tokyo, among others. His work is included in the permanent collections of more than 40 museums worldwide including the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, MoMA and the Art Institute of Chicago. He received both the Judges Prize and Popular Prize from the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston in 1944 and was one of the youngest artists included in the “14 Americans” exhibition of 1946 curated by Dorothy Canning Miller of MoMA. In 1979, the Rose Art Museum of Brandeis University, the Jewish Museum and the National Academy of Design in New York all hosted retrospectives of his painting and sculpture. Later in his career, Boston University also hosted a comprehensive retrospective of his work in 2005, and the Danforth Museum featured a solo exhibition of Aronson’s work in 2009.
In addition to his exhibitions, Aronson received numerous awards and honors, including a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1960, election as Academician at the National Academy of Design, New York, Purchase Prize in 1961, 1962 and 1963 from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York, and honorary doctorates from both Hebrew College and Boston University.
Throughout his career, Aronson continued to experiment with new subjects and materials, frequently choosing dynamic subjects such as musicians, alchemists, magicians and mystics. He also used charcoal and pastel to exploit the power of black and white with the immediacy of drawing to convey profound human emotion in such works as “The Moonworshippers,” 1960, charcoal, 80″ x 84″ (private collection). His explorations in the 1960s also led him into sculpture, first in relief, extruding the forms from the two dimensional surface, and ultimately into major three dimensional works in bronze such as “The Door,” 1963-69, bronze, 94″ x 50″ x 12″ (collection Museum of Fine Arts, Boston).
Aronson leaves his wife of 60 years Georgiana (Nyman) Aronson, daughters Judy Webb and Abigail Zocher and son Ben Aronson, and three grandchildren (Jesse, Alex and Max) and great-granddaughter Isabella.