When you are good friends with someone with immense talent, your perspective on their accomplishments is sometimes akin, like Icarus, to flying too close to the sun. Attracted by the brilliance, you can become blinded to the risk of loss of reflection on what is transpiring. My friend Daniel Gerhartz, like Daedalus, has carefully treaded the path between craftsmanship and inspiration to develop a prolific body of fine art. It has been balanced between classical technique and a spiritual core that, as quoted by Waaijman, “aims to recover the original shape of man.” The art world has already appreciated this careful balance, with awards, museum recognition, and popular acceptance. For the premier artist as craftsman, this is a very comfortable place to be. For an artist who is juxtaposed spiritually to the possibilities of the sublime, a parabola oriented toward the sun beckons. The evolution of good artists to greatness, to permanence, lies in the eerie tension created in risking the comfortable world, in search of the transcendent . The art of Daniel Gerhartz is on path towards recognition of the sublime.
Equally proficient in the art forms of landscape, still life, and portrait, the unifying thread of Gerhartz’s work is Beauty, and he is nonpareil in the human form. One of the great treatises on the concept of beauty is by Umberto Eco. He identifies the persistent need to extol beauty in all its forms as a distinctly western concept, and reflects as to how art particularly has recorded the changing view of what is deemed beautiful over the centuries. In his introduction Eco develops the close but distinct relationship between what is the Good and the Beautiful. Good is defined not only what we like, but what we should like to have for ourselves, as possession, that which stimulates our desire. Beauty permits us to appreciate it for what it is, immaterial of our capability to possess it. The Sublime lives in a plane of almost infinite beauty, creating as Schiller stated, a duality where the beauty is recognized as a component of a harmony experienced in the world of reason, but a corresponding negative tension felt by a pull toward the infinite that exists beyond sensible perception, creating a distinct emotion somewhere between a shudder and untrammeled rapture. It is in the Sublime that great representational artists congregate. Over time, Dan has recognized this historical theme, and learned to weave the various expressions of beauty into an ever more arresting and elevated body of work.
A Gerhartz artistic vision that is evolving is the juxtaposition of past representations of beauty as part of a mystical, dream like background relief of a classical still life. Beautifully rendered in “The Best of June”, the exquisite June blooms of peonies frame a distinct but reflected past expression of sublime beauty in the painting of Sir Frederic Leighton, “Flaming June” an arresting figure in repose existing in the world between languor and dreams.
Following his spiritual bent toward the mystical, inhabited in the earliest of Christian monasticism, the Desert Fathers of the 4th century, the parable of Abba Agathon is brought to life in a modern representation of timeless beauty found in selfless human action. The portrait of strength and spiritual clarity in the young man, the age and frailty of the reliant, old and crippled figure are expressively the technique of an engaged master of painting.
Experimenting with classical portrait on the iconic medium of gold leaf, the echoes of Degas are reverently expressed in a minimalist style backlighting a beautiful, very classical and very Gerhartz, elegantly realized ballet figure.
The silent and intimate evocation of human love of one sister for another, in portraiture almost as perfect in its tone, proportion, and immediate warmth as can be represented by oil paint, is expressed in Dan’s “To Cherish”. Strains of Mary Cassatt in coloration and composition remain modern and arresting — uniquely Gerhartz
With several decades of painting behind him, this painter is hitting a creative stride that even those like me, close to him for years, can see coming to full realization of his boundless talent. Modern representational painting has the enormous responsibility to recall , to build upon, not to copy, past expressions of great western art. We have been through a sullen century of artistic aversion to the timeless calling of human emotion and expressions of beauty that elevated the appreciation of the reason for human awareness and reflection. This aversion to life’s deeper calling is giving way slowly as modern society feels a progressive need to restore meaning to existence beyond simple material possession and security. This call to meaning has been the basis for western thought over the past two and a half millennia. We are wrapped in the need for human interaction, pulsed through creativity, love, courage, and tinged in passion for another. We at the same time inhabit a universe of immense scope, unknowable fate, beyond rational human insight, existing in the sublime realm of faith and spiritual awareness. The oncoming greatness as a painter expressing a conduit for those two worlds is Dan Gerhartz’s destiny. All that was, and all that can be artistically, is capably within the current brush strokes of a terrific American painter, Dan Gerhartz.