Fred Danziger

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As a child, Fred Danziger happily drew elephants or clowns with crayons for his mother, who would delight over the finished pictures and reward him with milk and cookies.

Today, his intricately detailed paintings are included in over 100 public collections and he still gets a rush when someone appreciates the feelings he’s captured.

“When I see my work installed in someone’s home and know they love having that piece as part of their life, I feel that we share a certain bond,” he says. “It’s a connection with someone. They get it; they love nature the same way I do. When you find people who are moved and the painting speaks to them, it’s very gratifying.”

Fred draws inspiration from walks in the woods, working to depict three-dimensional form as accurately as possible and achieving near photorealism with broad landscapes and up-close depictions of the natural environment. A master of details, his paintings of leaves, water - even dew-dappled blades of grass - become almost abstract compositions that combine nuances of light, texture and color to give the sense of being present in the scene.

“I don’t try to emulate photography in my paintings; I try to go way beyond what a camera sees,” he says. “A lot of it is just a feeling you get. You’re trying to express that sense of air and light and sunlight, just letting nature wash over you.”

Those sensations were impressed on him from his early childhood in Pittsburgh’s Chartiers Terrace, where he and his friends spent days wandering through nearby farms and orchards, hiking in the woods and fishing in meandering streams.

 

 

Over the years, Fred has been honored with several major awards, including the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art’s 2018 Award for Artistic Distinction, recognizing him for an extraordinary body of work. He was educated at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia, where he later shared his passion for painting as an adjunct professor. He counts masters like John Singer Sargent, Winslow Homer and Edgar Degas as influencers, along with his high school art teacher in Crafton, John Dropcho, who gave him the confidence to pursue painting as a career.

 

 

After immersing himself in painting the natural world - scenes of streams, leaves, water - Fred has expanded his work to include cityscapes and people.

“There’s an artist named George Bellows who inspires me in that he was an amazing landscapist, but he also did paintings with boxers in a boxing ring and cityscapes,” Fred says. “I like the idea that an artist has a range, not just a ‘one-note’ kind of artist. At the moment, I’m interested in neighborhoods and people.”

His work has been a longtime favorite among James Gallery clients, our founder, James Frederick, says.

“He loves nature and nuance, from mist to light filtering through leaves,” he says. “He’s an artist who came from a place when he was younger of paintings that were almost photosurreal. As he evolved, his paintings were much more about what he saw. Fred paints with infinite detail.”

His ability to depict even sublevel details - leaves that have slipped underneath a stream surface in “November Rain,” for example - are part of what make his paintings a wonder.

“November Rain” happened unexpectedly, a moment where Fred was surprised and delighted by what unfolded before him. He was heading out to paint on a gray day but was interrupted by wet weather. Instead of heading back to his studio, he paused.

“I was watching these ellipses, spreading out and out, dotting all over the stream and colliding,” he says. “I thought, I’ve got to try to do a painting of this.”

Here is the resulting art, set to music and poetry:

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