Ira Barkoff- The Wave, Oil, 30 x 60 inches

Ira Barkoff

Ira Barkoff became fascinated with landscape painting from the time his parents took him to the Catskills in the summers, where he painted his first landscape at an early age.  “When I was ten years old…and looking up at a blue sky with fast moving cotton ball clouds.  I thought, ‘I have to remember the sky…remember every single cloud.’” Although not known to him at the time, the Catskill Mountains were the stamping ground of the Hudson River School of landscape painters led by Thomas Cole in the nineteenth century.

It was the kind of painting that depended upon a quiet observation of fact, but in its celebration of nature, it touched on the romantic as well. Barkoff began with a quiet observation of fact, but soon a more romantic sensibility emerged in which the expression of his ideas was based more on memory and imagination. “My landscapes,” he said, “are not literal depictions of New England…but are distillations of visual and emotional memories. My hope is to transcend the natural world by bringing to life something deeper and more elusive than outward appearances. A given group of trees or a field is imbued with something greater and more moving than the specifics I see before me. What it is I cannot put into words, but I know, it is the only thing worth putting into my paintings.”

Barkoff has exquisite relationships of color and space. Barkoff explains his artistic process – “When I paint mountains or a tree, I’m not literally trying to capture the mountain or the tree – that’s what a photograph does. I’m trying to express my inner spirit in the painting, to transcend the physical to reach the spiritual. I’m creating a landscape of spatial relationships, spatial experiences, and designs that unfold to the viewer, a little at a time, thus creating light, air, and mystery.”

Barkoff’s influences range from Rembrandt (especially the great pen and ink drawings) to J.M.W. Turner’s late unfinished paintings. John Constable’s studies of clouds, the poetic subjectivity of Twachtman’s landscapes, Monet’s Water Lily Series, Mark Rothko, as well as the landscape painter Wolf Kahn. He admires the romantic sensibility of Caspar David Friedrich and the color of Van Gogh. Later, he embraced the gestural painting of Richard Diebenkorn and William Dekooning, and more recently the premier coup paintings of Edwin Dickinson (1891-1978). Working in his studio in natural light, Barkoff paints to music – usually opera, sometimes Chopin, which, he says helps put him “in the zone.” Although Barkoff works from his imagination and memory, he has spent years painting from nature, and nature has always been the source of his inspiration. His gorgeously layered landscapes evoke an extraordinary sense of place, and are an expression of harmony and peace.

Barkoff’s work has been displayed in numerous galleries during the past three decades. His paintings are in the collections of the New Britain Museum of American Art and the Mattatuck Museum.