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Howard Behrens

Howard Behrens, American 


Classically trained and intensely focused, Howard Behrens Paints with dramatic intensity. For nearly seven decades, light, color, line, and texture have defined his life. Born in Chicago in 1933 and raised near Washington, D.C., Howard Behrens received his undergraduate training at the University of Maryland. He briefly considered a career as a medical illustrator and was accepted by the Medical Arts School at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, but did not enroll, choosing instead to return to the University of Maryland for graduate studies in painting and sculpture.


In 1964 he was awarded a Masters Degree. From 1964 to 1981, Behrens worked for the United States Government Printing Office, serving as Chief Artist for ten years. During the 17 years he worked for the government, he devoted his free time to painting. Weekends, nights, vacation days, if he wasn't painting, he was traveling extensively. From the sun-drenched coastal areas of the United States to the lush, tropical areas of the Caribbean, Hawaii, and Mexico, to the seductive warmth of the Italian Riviera, southern France and the Mediterranean, Behrens finds his inspiration in the beauty of the places he travels. Although he's best known for his dramatic use of vivid colors, that capture the brilliance of direct sunlight on canvas.


Considered the master of the palette knife technique, Behrens is unique in his preference for the palette knife over the paintbrush. A flat, triangular metal tool that has more in common with a putty knife than a paintbrush, this instrument is a rather unyielding, inflexible hand held tool typically used to mix and blend paints. His decision in 1976 to experiment with this tool marked the turning point in his career. He had already worked his way through numerous painting styles and techniques---evolving from muted to bright, intense colors, from a sparing use of paint to a more abundant application, and from well planned compositions to spontaneous work. But in 1976 when he abandoned the paintbrush and picked up the palette knife, he found the technique that could keep up with his creative energy, a technique that uses so much undiluted paint he virtually sculpts on canvas with the strokes of a knife. Once he made the experimental leap to this artistic technique, he hasn't picked up a paintbrush since.


Howard Behrens paints to bring visual delight, and the result is a visual vocabulary for pleasure, gratitude, warmth, and romance. The world of Howard Behrens is a world of transforming sunlight, a world that warms the soul and awakens the heart's desires.

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