Bernard Cohen

Biography of Bernard Cohen

A proclaimed storyteller and creator of pictorial theatre, British artist Bernard Cohen’s highly complex works have been hugely popular since he first began attending art school. Whilst often classified as an abstract expressionist, the artist’s work has long merged numerous stylistic influences, as he has mastered both the use of color and ultimate precision in the creation of patterns and motifs.


In his work, Bernard Cohen unveils tangled networks of lines, dots, colored panels and at times even figurative motifs. It is through these dizzying compositions that the artist reveals the strict sense of order and thought in his process.


Born in London to Polish-Russian parents in 1933, Bernard Cohen then went on to attend both Saint Martin’s School of Art and SLADE School of Fine Art, graduating from the latter in 1954, and would later return to teach. Following his studies, the artist took on travelling scholarships to France, Italy, and Spain. It was after these experiences, in the late 1950s, that Bernard Cohen first came to prominence. At the age of 24 the artist earned his first solo exhibition at the prestigious Gimpel Fils Gallery in London’s Mayfair. Since then the artist’s large scale canvases have been exhibited widely.


By varying applications of paint on his canvases—using different paintbrushes, spray guns or even his fingers—Bernard Cohen has sought through the years to encourage viewers to question the process of painting. He has consistently invited viewers to fully appreciate each paint stroke in terms of its scale, color, texture and application on to the canvas.


Although primarily known as an abstract expressionist painter, Bernard Cohen has also extensively dealt in printmaking. The artist developed amidst a rise in the status of screen printing as a fine art medium in the 1960s, and a number of his prints and editions were featured in the British Council’s celebrated 2003 publication As is When: A Boom in British Printmaking 1961-1972 alongside works of Bridget Riley and Richard Hamilton.


Bernard Cohen continues to work in London, and has seen his prints and paintings exhibited across a number of renowned art institutions, namely the Hayward Gallery, The Royal Academy of Arts and the Barbican Art Gallery, all in London, the Musée d'art moderne et contemporain, Geneva, and MoMA, New York. His work also features in the Tate Britain’s permanent collection.

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