Chernow, Burt 1933-1997
CHERNOW, Burt 1933-1997
PERSONAL: Born July 28, 1933, in New York, NY; died of a heart attack, June 9, 1997, in Deerfield Park, FL; son of Abe and Selma (Schneider) Chernow; married Tamara Sackman, January 1, 1957 (divorced, July, 1970); married Ann Levy, December 12, 1970; children: (first marriage) Perrin, Paul, Paige. Education: New York University, B.S., 1958, M.A., 1960.
CAREER: Educator, sculptor, art historian, author. Art teacher at public schools in Valley Stream, NY, 1958-60, and Westport, CT, 1960-66; Housatonic Community College, Bridgeport, CT, assistant professor, 1966-70, associate professor, 1970-74, chairman of department of art, professor of art history, 1974—; founder and director of Housatonic Museum of Art, 1974-85. Member of teaching staff of Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY, 1966-71; member of faculty at Silvermine School of the Arts, 1969-77, Stamford Museum, Greenwich Art Center, local Center for Continuing Education, and Higher Education Center for Urban Studies, 1968-71. Member of board of directors of Westport Weston Arts Council, 1969-97, Bridgeport Commission on the Arts, 1972-97, Art Resources of Connecticut, 1976-79, and ABCD Art Center, Bridgeport, 1983-86. Work exhibited in group shows, including in the 1964-65 World's Fair and in permanent and private collections. Military service: U.S. Army, 1953-55.
AWARDS, HONORS: First prizes from Barnum Festival, 1966, for sculpture; the Burt Chernow Galleries of the Housatonic Museum of Art were named in Chernow's honor.
Paper, Paint, and Stuff, two volumes, Technifax and Educational Directions, 1969.
Lester Johnson Paintings: The Kaleidoscopic Crowd, David Anderson, 1975.
Gabor Peterdi: Paintings, Taplinger (New York, NY), 1982.
The Drawings of Milton Avery, Taplinger (New York, NY), 1984.
Christo and Jeanne-Claude: A Biography, epilogue by Wolfgang Volz, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2002.
Author of exhibition catalogs. Art critic for Fairpress, Westport News, and Stratford News, 1972-73, 1978-79. Contributor of essays and reviews to newspapers and periodicals, including Arts, Art News, Art New England, Four Winds, Intellect, Craft Horizons, County, and Instructor.
SIDELIGHTS: Burt Chernow gained acclaim in the art world, winning the Barnum Festival's prize for sculpture in 1966, and for his work as the founding director of the Housatonic Museum of Art. He began teaching art in public schools in Connecticut and New York after serving in the U.S. Army in the mid-1950s. In 1966, he accepted a position at Housatonic Community College in Bridgeport, Connecticut, and in 1974, founded the art museum there. Chernow authored many exhibition catalogs, as well as articles for art journals. His artwork is seen in private collections and was on display at the 1964-65 New York World's Fair.
Among his books is Christo and Jeanne-Claude: A Biography, published posthumously. He follows the careers of his friends, Bulgarian Christo Javacheff and his wife and artistic partner, Jeanne-Claude de Guillebon, born in French-controlled Casablanca. The couple—who share the same birthday, June 13, 1935—came from very different backgrounds. When they met in Paris in 1959, he was a poor exile from Communism, while she came from a wealthy French family. Christo's avant-garde minimalist style became popular, first in Paris, and then in New York, and he is best known for his "wrapped" works. Chernow's narrative ends in 1983, but Christo/Jeanne-Claude collaborator Wolfgang Volz adds to the biography with an epilogue about the couple who declared their "artistic interdependence" in 1994. Booklist's Donna Seaman wrote that Christo and Jeanne-Claude "will stand as the keystone biography of a truly revolutionary artist and his soul mate."
Chernow once commented: "Few areas attract as much irrelevant writing as the visual arts. People who read the text that appears with art images deserve thoughtful discussion and insight and some degree of intelligent analysis. The artists deserve no less."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, February 15, 2002, Donna Seaman, review of Christo and Jeanne-Claude: A Biography, p. 980.
Library Journal, May 1, 2002, Martin R. Kalfatovic, review of Christo and Jeanne-Claude, p. 96.
New York Times, June 15, 1997, p. 31.*