Date: 12/10/2012 Print This Post

Famed Painter and Illustrator Max Ginsburg Brings Striking ‘Social Realism’ to World of Art Showcase


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Ginsburg will also conduct a live demonstration each day at the celebration of the visual arts hosted at The Wynn Las Vegas December 20-22 

Looking back almost 80 years on a quirky, oft quoted anecdotal moment that came to define his life, Max Ginsburg says that he began painting at age 2 when he commandeered one of the brushes that his father, a notable portrait painter, had used to create his latest work.

“I took his brush and started painting on the portrait he had just finished,” says theParis born, Brooklyn raised artist, who will be exhibiting at the World of Art Showcase (, a unique celebration of the visual arts at The Wynn Las Vegas December 20-22. “I consider the spanking I got as my first lesson.”

Everything went on the upswing from there, as Ginsburg—who studied at the legendary High School of Music and Art and then at Syracuse University—became a student and, starting in the mid-50s, a purveyor of realism at a time when the art establishment was embracing abstract expressionism and calling realism “old fashioned.”

After developing his career as a painter while teaching in the ’60s at New York’s High School of Art and Design, he painted more loosely and impressionistically in the ’60s and more realistically from life in the ’70′s before returning in more recent years to stunning, gritty depictions of life in his hometown and stark, sometimes graphic social and anti-war commentary. In between, from 1980 through 2004, he became a renowned commercial illustrator, creating more than 800 works for the New York Times, New York Magazine, Fortune Magazine and top publishers like Avon, Penguin Putnam, Harlequin, Bantam, Dell, Crown, Pocket Books and Warner Publications, among others.

Working with notable authors like John Knowles (“A Separate Peace”), Pamela Pacotti (“Winds of Desire”) and Mildred Taylor, Ginsburg’s combination of intuitive skill and deep empathy combined to produce tender depictions of friendship or family ties in the face of gross social injustice and random tragedy.

“When Mr. Ginsburg first started painting, he was working in direct opposition to the period’s minimalism and rejection of representational art,” says World of Art Showcase Executive Director Mario Parga. “His fine art represented his immediate environment and the people of his beloved hometown, and the passion he brought to those works and his novel cover illustrations make him that rare artist who can reflect gritty reality while also engaging us on flights of whimsical fancy. As one of America’s most important painters, we are delighted that he will be exhibiting and conducting painting demonstrations at our inaugural event.”

Ginsburg will display and offer for sale representative paintings from the various phases of his career at the World of Art Showcase, including the illustration cover paintings from “A Separate Peace”, Harlequin and Warner Books romance cover paintings, the cover painting for Mildred Taylor’s Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry and many of the realistic New York street life paintings from the past decade that fully illuminate the human condition as he sees it.

He will also be selling copies of his exquisite coffee table book (published in 2010), “Max Ginsburg: Retrospective,” a collection of his paintings from 1956 to 2011 featuring more than 170 color plates and other black and white reproductions of his artwork. Alongside this book will be the six-hour two-disc DVD, “Max Ginsburg: The Legacy of an American Painter,” which features a three hour real-time painting demonstration by Ginsburg, an interview led by Peter Trippi, a slideshow of the artist’s work and a walkthrough of Ginsburg’s recent retrospective at the Butler Institute of American Art.

“Because not everyone will get a chance to see the DVD,” the artist says, “I will also be doing a live painting demonstration of a person posing for me each day of the exhibit at the World of Art Showcase. It’s a unique environment for me to work in, so far from my studio in New York. I think it’s a great way to share what I do with the patrons who attend the event.”

Ginsburg’s lifelong passion for realism has its roots in his childhood, where he was inspired by his father but also the dark historical realities of the ’30s and ’40s, which included the Great Depressionanti-Semitism and the rise of Hitler, World War II, and domestic social issues like poverty and racial and ethnic injustice. “These were and are important issues for humanity,” he says, “and as I was growing up, I saw that in order to get along and make a living, sometimes people had to compromise their human values, and this just isn’t right. When I started painting, I looked to old masters for inspiration, starting with Rembrandt, who stuck adamantly to his principles and painted the reality of people and the truth about the world.

“I often quote the line from Romantic poet John Keats’ ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn,’which says, ‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty – That is all/Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know,” he adds. “I’ve always felt that an artist’s personal message is an integral part of his or her expression. One of the first things people can see on my website is my quote about New York, in which I mention my personal and deep connection to the rich, energetic and beautiful city. My stated objective is to paint about the people of New York, realistically and with compassion. I believe when you are familiar with your subject, you have a deeper sense of what they are, and so the work will have a stronger sense of identity than if I was a tourist painting some unfamiliar situation.”

Another element of Ginsburg’s sense of socially conscious expression—which is very apparent in some of his more intense work over the past ten years—is his deep outrage about war, injustice and torture. “With regard to these themes, I have been inspired by old masters such as Caravaggio, Goya, Kollwitz and Picasso. I choose to paint realistically because realism is truth. I derive an aesthetic pleasure in skillfully done realistic drawings and paintings. I believe that realism can communicate ideas strongly and it is this communication that is extremely important to me.”

To see more of Ginsburg’s work visit