Oil portrait painting of a woman
Kathryn Engberg, "Fatima in Pink," 2018, oil on linen, 12 x 9 in., available from the artist

There is a lot of superb art being made these days; this article by Allison Malafronte shines light on a gifted contemporary artist.

Art has been a mainstay in the life of Kathryn Engberg (b. 1994) since childhood. As a third-generation artist, she regularly spent time in her mother’s and grandmother’s studios watching them paint, and trips to museums and art projects were a standard part of growing up in her hometown of Salisbury, Maryland. By the time she reached adolescence and young adulthood, Engberg was developing into an artist all her own, and those around her continued to nurture her talent.

After high school, Engberg attended the Grand Central Atelier (New York City) and graduated from it in 2016. Today she is a core instructor at the school, passing on to the next generation the 19th-century academic approach that was taught to her by founder Jacob Collins and his colleagues. Some of the tenets this curriculum espouses are working exclusively from life under natural light, with a time-intensive and gradually progressive understanding of the figure and form.

The classical-style portraits the young artist produces stand out for their contemporary and mature viewpoint. Although Engberg sometimes dresses her sitters in period costume, she just as often paints people exactly as they are today, being completely honest in her interpretation. To make the process as informed as possible, the artist spends significant time getting to know her subjects both personally and structurally, and each portrait takes between 20 and 30 hours to complete. “This is an integral part of my approach,” Engberg shares. “The subject sits for me the entire time and I do not use photography, so this allows me to really get to know him or her.”

In her painting Fatima in Pink, Engberg has captured the type of quiet resolve found in several of her portraits. “Many of my paintings aim to show a gentle strength that I think is present in women,” the artist notes. “I love the idea of depicting a woman plainly and simply but giving her strength in the honesty of that portrayal. It’s not about the glamour shot or smoothing away every flaw — it’s about embracing every facet of every form. Here my model just seemed to radiate this serenity that I aimed to capture with the ambient pink light surrounding her.”

Engberg is represented by Simie Maryles Gallery (Provincetown, MA) and Mountain Trails Fine Art (Santa Fe).


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