Competition: US & Canada
Al Blaustein (1924–2004) was born in New York City into a family of immigrants from Eastern Europe. After graduating from the High School of Music and Art, he enrolled at the Cooper Union School of Art. However, World War II interrupted his studies; following three years in the U.S. Air Force, he returned to New York to complete his formal education at Cooper Union in 1947.
Blaustein began his art career in East Africa in 1948 as an artist for LIFE magazine and the British Overseas Food Corporation, with an assignment to record local life as he saw it. He soon began to exhibit widely. Selected to paint a fresco mural at the South Solon Meeting House, Maine, he based it on the theme of sacrifice from the Old Testament. His work appeared in Natural History magazine, Fortune, The Reporter, and numerous art anthologies. Honors included the Rome Prize in painting and two Guggenheim fellowships, in painting (1958) and printmaking (1961).
His teaching career began in 1949 at the Albright Art School, Buffalo, and continued at Yale University. His long association with Pratt Institute in Brooklyn lasted from 1959 to his death on July 15, 2004. As Professor of Fine Arts and Chairman of Printmaking, he guided generations of students. The annual Pratt Draw-A-Thon was originated by him, attracting hundreds of enthusiasts from the New York area annually.
In an art world focused on minimalism and conceptual ideas, Blaustein’s work never strayed far from figuration. Primarily expressionist in nature, it dealt in metaphor, whether depicting the physical world or the creatures of his imagination. Never a self-promoter, he simply concentrated on his work and teaching. Summers were often spent bicycling around Europe, drawing, and seeking out museums and unusual art collections of special interest to him. His wife, Lotte, and son, Marc, both graphic designers, often accompanied him on these trips. In 1993 he returned to Kenya and Tanzania, where he had lived for a year during his first drawing assignments in the 1940s. He came back with hundreds of drawings recording the changes that had occurred in the interim.
Moving easily between painting, drawing, and printmaking, he produced prodigious amounts of work in all these areas, spending almost every day in the studio. The artist’s website highlights a small sampling of key series spanning his career.