Gladys H. Goldstein

Mount Washington abstract painter had her works exhibited in Baltimore, Washington, New York and Paris

March 20, 2010|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

Gladys H. Goldstein, a noted Mount Washington abstract painter who was known for her unusual handling of light in her work, died March 13 at Seasons Hospice at Northwest Hospital Center of complications after surgery.

She was 92.

Mrs. Goldstein once wrote, "My canvases are not explicit statements, but hints of things that are, or were, or might have been - of memories, of feelings."

She explained in a 1982 article in The Evening Sun that the meaning of an abstract painting is "to take the essence of something. The flower is in the garden. It can never be on the paper. You painted only an impression of the flower."

A 1968 art review in The Baltimore Sun observed that "Mrs. Goldstein brings to her work much of her own vibrantly alert personality yet fortunately avoids giving her work any stylistic idiom or formula which would immediately stamp it as hers."

The prolific painter for more than 70 years, who was still working within three weeks of her death, was born Gladys V. Hack in Newark, Ohio.

Her father, Samuel Hack, had founded a newspaper in Ohio with Warren G. Harding before Harding became president of the United States. Her mother was a homemaker.

When she was 3, her father abandoned newspaper work and returned in 1920 to Baltimore, his hometown, where he found work as a ceramicist.

Mrs. Goldstein, who began studying art when she was 9, had her first art exhibition three years later.

"I don't remember ever not painting," Mrs. Goldstein said in a 2004 autobiographical interview that accompanies a guide to her work, which is part of the permanent collection of the Maryland Artists Collection at the University of Maryland University College in Adelphi.

She was a graduate of Western High School and attended the Johns Hopkins and Columbia universities, the Art Students League of New York and the Maryland Institute College of Art.

Mrs. Goldstein also studied at Pennsylvania State University with Hobson Pittman, a noted Philadelphia naturalist painter and etcher of still life and landscape, who urged her to abandon her plans to become a teacher and become a painter instead.

Mrs. Goldstein began her career as a portrait painter, which she pursued for more than a decade despite not enjoying it, until switching to abstract art in the early 1950s.

In the 2004 interview, Mrs. Goldstein recalled the moment she made the transition from being a realistic portrait artist to an abstract painter. It was while she was sitting on a park bench in New York City observing how the spaces around her seemed to change.

"The negative space seemed so much more important than the positive," she said. "I began to see differently and to think differently. So I began to paint abstractly."

The natural world was always the inspiration for her paintings, Mrs. Goldstein explained in the interview that as an artist, but "you can't reproduce nature."

"You can never get a canvas big enough to hold a tree. You can look at the heart of a rose. You can take it and hold it in your hand," she said.

"You can't ever really paint a rose because you can't get the aroma of the rose. You can't get the full force of the rose. The only thing you can get in the painting is the essence of the rose," she said.

"In nature Mrs. Goldstein finds a constant change in mood through patterns, rhythms, color, flamboyant now, wistfully delicate tomorrow; light, light that is reflected, light that is absorbed, light that is charged with the buoyancy of champagne or as quietly, morosely romantic, as any passage of Baudelaire," wrote a Baltimore Sun art critic in a 1958 review.

Her use of light earned early praise from then-Baltimore Sun art critic Kenneth R. Sawyer, who wrote: "Mrs. Goldstein's origins are quite clear: she is an Impressionist - the only Impressionist I know of who is continuing the tradition without repeating it."

By the late 1950s, Mrs. Goldstein was exhibiting her work at such galleries and museums as the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, Galerie Philadelphie in Paris and the Duveen-Graham Gallery in New York City.

Eugene Leake, an artist who was president of the Maryland Institute College of Art, asked Mrs. Goldstein in 1960 to not only introduce abstract art to the curriculum, but to teach it as well.

"I believe that each person has to follow his own needs and his own credo in creating a work of art," Mrs. Goldstein explained in the 2004 interview of her charge to her students.

After leaving MICA in 1964, she joined the faculty of the College of Notre Dame of Maryland, where she taught college seniors until 1982. She also taught at the Jewish Community Center from 1962 to 1982, and privately until her death.

"She was tenacious and always had very high standards for herself," Bobby Donovan, assistant director of the UMUC Art Program, said recently.

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