David Leffel

Born in Brooklyn, New York, distinguished painter David A Leffel spent eleven years of his childhood in various hospitals battling a bone disease. He used this time to develop his passion and talent for art. Eventually this led him to enroll in Parsons School of Design, as well as Fordham University. When he reached the tender age of 29, The Art Students League of New York beckoned; there, he studied for one year with Frank Mason. Fulfilling one of his dreams, he returned to the League to teach for 25 years.

Leffel’s mentor is Rembrandt Van Rijn. “The thing that struck me about Rembrandt, even before I thought about a painting life, was that his paintings were so intelligent. The way he moved light from place to place seemed inexorable. As I understood more about painting, I saw that the difference in Rembrandt was the intelligence behind his painting. Everything he did was purposeful on the plane of visual logic.”

When it comes to his philosophy of painting, Leffel is not at a loss for words. He seeks to understand the process of painting in the way a theoretical physicist seeks to understand the universe. In fact, he does not paint people or fruit, but quarks and electrons, waves and particles. His objects only appear to be solid when you step back to where you can no longer see the motion. He calls this process of the artist seeking to comprehend nature intelligence.

“Intelligence,” as Leffel uses it, does not comply with the most obvious definition. He is referring to an ardent pursuit of the visual perception of nature, as well as the concordant attempt to solve with paint the problems nature presents. Most painters try to represent nature faithfully within their own styles—essentially an externalizing process, rather than adapting nature to the needs of the painting they want to paint—an internalizing process.

Leffel approaches art the way Montaigne approached the self: as a continual inward delving to comprehend the obscure beauty of life. “As I sought deeper into the mysteries of painting I discovered painting mirrored life. Painting, like life, is a set of interlocking relationships. Everything one does has a consequence.” Leffel does not paint to express; he paints to learn.

His books in print are Self-Portraits: A Visual Journey of Insight (Bright Light Publishing, 2008) and An Artist Teaches: Reflections on the Art of Painting (Bright Light Publishing, 2004).

David A Leffel’s works are in museums and private collections throughout the world. He has received many professional awards and been the subject of numerous articles and interviews.

(Excerpted from the article “David A Leffel: The Elegance of Paradox” by Rachel Wolf, Fine Art Connoisseur, November/December 2011.)


David A Leffel — Artist Statement
“Art should be an expression of universality and wholeness, not of immediate temporal factors. It is a means of reaffirming life, of overcoming confusion…”