“I’m not making art for anyone but myself, hoping that maybe somebody will understand, that they felt like I did at a certain time.”
At 99 years old, unrepentant artist Jonah Kinigstein rejoins the show to celebrate his new book, UNREPENTANT ARTIST (Fantagraphics Underground)! We talk about how it felt to bring decades’ worth of his paintings together for the book, how it captures his lifetime battle in the name of representational art, and how his paintings have changed since our 2015 conversation. We get into the inspiration of living near Coney Island, the fun of using Catholic imagery and making a circus out of religion in general, his love of the grotesque, the rage that fuels his political cartooning, the ways the Holocaust echoes in his work and whether he feels he has to be “careful” in his paintings of Jews, how he & his wife hope to celebrate his 100th birthday, and more! Give it a listen! And go pick up Unrepentant Artist!
“I picked the paintings that I thought were the best. And if you make something better, you save it for the next book.”
“It’s like I’m living in another country, but the country hasn’t been made yet.”
About our Guest
Born in 1923 in Coney Island, Jonah’s early influences were discovered during visits to the Metropolitan Museum: “When I really saw the old masters, it blew my mind, of course.” He attended Cooper Union for a year before he was drafted into the Army, serving from 1942 – 1945. Soon after, Jonah moved to Paris where he spent time at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière, conversing with other aspiring artists, exchanging ideas, exhibiting his work, seeing established artists, and generally soaking up a fertile creative environment. He exhibited in several shows including the Salon D’Automne, Salon de Mai, and the Salon des Moins de Trente Ans, and had one-man shows in the Galerie Breteau and Les Impressions D’Art. After Paris, Jonah moved to Rome on a Fulbright Scholarship and studied at the La Schola Di Belles Artes. After a year, he returned to the U.S. and exhibited his paintings at the Downtown Gallery in Manhattan. Like so many painters, he was unable to make a living solely from painting, so he worked in the commercial art world and did freelance illustration and design. Throughout this time, Jonah’s commitment to his own art never wavered, and he continued to paint and occasionally exhibit.
Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at Jonah’s home on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 Microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photo of me & Jonah by Eileen Kinigstein. It’s on my instagram.