In 1969, a young aspiring artist picked up a copy of Robert Henriís acclaimed book of anecdotes, The Art Spirit and the wisdom that was revealed sketched a plan for living that was imprinted upon her heart. "In my student years I was introduced to the ideas of Robert Henri, an American painter with a philosophy that art could be a powerful voice for impacting anything. Art was life, and life was art: they could be one in the same providing a joyous experience of the universe."
Dianne B. Bernhard lives art in the tradition of Robert Henri: she is an accomplished painter, teacher, arts advocate and devoted patron. Her background as a working painter led her to develop deep insights into the needs of artists and when she decided to establish an institution committed to the work of living artists, it was appropriate that it would share the philosophy and even the same name. Dianneís success as an artist and mentor has brought her full circle from painter to patron which is evidenced in her greatest artistic endeavor yet, the creation of the Art Spirit Foundation. "It is my commitment that art will be accepted in this society as pleasurable and profitable for both artist and patron. I can not envision a world without art!"
Dianne B. Bernhard began her career as an artist in Houston, Texas. Her early years were spent studying with renowned flower painter, Fernie Parker Taite and oil masters Elsie Andrews and William Henry Earle. She also studied with master painters throughout Europe perfecting her floral and landscape painting technique. "I began studying art in my early 20s and quickly became accepted as a premiere floral artist. My hunger for education led me around the world to study. Later I became one of the early pioneers of the paint-along workshop that I taught throughout the country." Additional studies included art history and business at the University of Houston and Yale University. Professionally she traveled throughout the United States and abroad demonstrating and lecturing in universities and art institutes providing valuable text to her students in the techniques of oil painting.
After many years of painting with oil, Dianne discovered a new medium. Over the past sixteen years she has developed an interest and love for pastel, a medium she believes has yet to fully reveal itself to the world. She has also nurtured a personal relationship with a particular artist...she counts this bond among her most important relationships inclusive with her family.
"I was judging a competition and saw a pastel painting that really captured my attention. The artist was a student of master pastelist, Herman Margulies. A short while later, I saw another painting with the same quality and discovered that it was also the Margulies technique."
In 1987, she applied to be his student. "It was a difficult time in my life, and Herman helped me a great deal. Now, as his patron, I am helping him." Together with her husband, Van, they have purchased many of his paintings and even sponsored his first major museum exhibition that was held in September of 2001 at the Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown, Ohio. The show was extended due to itís popularity and great attendance.
"For almost two decades I have watched him work and have been an enthusiastic collector of his paintings. It is my commitment to focus attention on the renaissance of pastel and to bring that attention to the public regarding the permanence and beauty of this medium. Every movement need a voice; I think Herman is that voice."
The Art Spirit Foundation, as a non-profit organization has established monetary awards and medals to be presented to outstanding pastel artists entering numerous American competitions. The foundationís mission is to promote the arts, illustrate how art enhances and enriches the lives of all people, and provide insight into art as a life-changing force...Mrs. Bernhardís commitment to propelling the Pastel Renaissance into the 21st Century is a living example of how it can be accomplished.
Dianne B. Bernhard is a member and actively contributes to the Pastel Society of America, The National Arts Club, The Salmagundi Club and the National Museum of Women in the Arts. She has served as President of the Connecticut Classic Artists Association and her most recent distinctions include election to the Advisory Board of the National Academy of Design and the Board of Governors of the National Arts Club where she is also the current Chair of the Exhibitions Committee. She was recently awarded the 2003 Gold Medal of Excellence by the president of the National Arts Club. She lives in Westport, Connecticut with her husband, Van.