Dressed in a casual tracksuit, famous crooner Tony Bennett frequently pops in on classes at the Art Students League unannounced. He’s not there to greet fans or to do an impromptu performance, he’s there to learn. In his 90s, Bennett remains a curious, active and passionate student and patron of the arts. While he is well known for his musical talents, he has been quietly practicing painting for decades. In a new exhibit inside the Art Students League, near Bennett’s home on Central Park South, Bennett’s art is on display. Bennett paints under his full name of Anthony Bendetto and often depicts his famous friends and the amazing locations he has visited while on tour in his work. On a preview of the exhibit, The Art of Tony Bennett/Anthony Benedetto, Untapped New York got to go inside the studio where he practices his craft.
Walking into the lobby of the Art Students League, you are greeted by two portraits of Tony at the beginning of this free exhibition. The smaller one on the left is a self-portrait, and the larger portrait to the right was painted by Everett Raymond Kinstler, a portrait artist who painted many American presidents, and taught at the League. Bennett was a longtime friend and student of Kinstler, and this year was the first recipient of the The League’s Everett Raymond Kinstler Lifetime Achievement Award. Elsewhere in the exhibition, you will find a self-portrait Bennett drew of his younger self from memory. The exhibition is also full of portraits of Bennett’s famous friends and collaborators like Lady Gaga, Duke Ellington, Stevie Wonder and more.
Bennett’s work shows a mastery of both portraiture and landscape painting. Central Park is a reoccurring subject in his paintings, as well as the exotic locations he has travelled to all over the world while on tour. “Everyday a line” is a motto at the Art Students League that Bennett has taken to heart. The idea is that you should draw something everyday to help improve your craft. Despite his busy performance schedules, Bennett always found time to practice his painting. In the gallery, you will see colorful watercolor paintings of Florence, Brazil, France, and other countries where the singer has performed.
Works for the exhibition have been borrowed from various collections, including Bennett’s own private collection. The curator of the Art Students League exhibition, Genevieve Martin, described Bennett as “one of the most humble and generous people we’ve met and an extraordinary talent.” If you find any of the paintings in the exhibition particularly striking, you may be able to buy it! Select paintings are on sale. A portion of the sales go to benefit the League.
The Art Students League offers classes for artists of all skill sets and forms of art. There are no requirements for admission other than a desire to learn. Plus, you may find yourself in class one day with a music legend. The Tony Bennett exhibition will be on view through January 11th, 2020. See the exhibition for yourself on our upcoming tour of the historic Art Students League on Thursday, December 12th! Led by staff at the League, guests will go inside the various galleries and classrooms to see where students practice their crafts. You can join this tour if you are an Untapped New York Insider. Not an Insider yet? Become a member today to gain access to behind-the-scenes the scenes tours and special events all year long!
Next, check out The Top 10 Secrets of the Arts Students League of New York, a Beaux-Arts Landmark on 57th Street and see our full lists of Untapped New York Insider events!