Broken Turtle Blog

Broken Turtle Blog

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Two of Delaware's Best Living Artists

Now that Delaware's best living artist Edward Loper has passed away, there are many still with us who deserve that mantle. The criteria for best living artist is, of course, the quality of one's work. The other would be the sheer volume of it. Did Picasso outlive Dali, or was it the other way around?

Here, I would like to submit two candidates who are among Delaware's best artists. I chose them because they have one thing in common. They are both expatriates. One is an expatriate from another country, and the other is an expatriate in another country.
Painting by Roldan West
Sax Player by Roldan West
Roldan West lives and works in Wilmington, but he was born in Nicaragua. The other, Jonathan Bragdon was born in Wilmington. He now lives with his family in Amsterdam, in the Netherlands. As a teenager, Roldan West  joined the Sandanista Revolution leading him to play a major part in their literacy program on behalf of Nicaraguan peasants. With the artist Sergio Michellini he crafted murals in Managua. He visited Mexico to learn from the murals of Sequeiros, Orozco and Diego Rivera.  He studied with Mexican artists Arnold Belkin and Geraldo Cantu. Roldan traveled extensively through Europe, Asia, and Africa learning the craft of graffiti art by use of spray cans. An excellent example of Roldan West at work can be found a

Jonathan Bragdon left Wilmington in 1961 and moved to Switzerland and the home of an uncle who lived there. One of his earliest inspirations came after visiting the Louvre. Jonathan later attended the Ecole Superierure des Art Decoritifs, studied under the artist Biagio Frisa and received encouragement from the artist Jasper Johns. His earliest shows in the United States in the late 1960s sold very well. His success selling in European galleries have also done very well. More about Jonathan's artwork may be found at:

The author with Jonathan Bragdon on the left from 1959. Behind 
us is an original painting by Delaware artist William D. White. 

Back Garden, Dresden by Jonathan Bragdon
                       Kruidberg, Santpoort Noord by Jonathan Bragdon

Being able to achieve success in the sale of one's artwork surely contributes to the value of one's art. Doing that over a long period during an artist's career will assure the reputation of an artist after having passed from the scene. Such is true with many past Wilmington artists, beginning with Howard Pyle, through any number of the Brandywine School artists, through those who began their work during the WPA like Edward Loper, Edward Grant, Bayard Berndt and William D. White, as well as others including Gayle Hoskins and Jefferson David Chalfant. The list is large and the Delaware Art Museum has played a central role in preserving this legacy.

Today, the city of Wilmington has developed a downtown art district hosting a number of galleries and art schools. This assures us a plethora of gifted and living fine artists for a long time to come. Whether they been working here for a long time, like E. Jean Lanyon and Edward Loper Jr, or are fresh out of art school and intending to make the vicinity their home, both Jonathan Bragdon and Roldan West are in good company.