Published: June 19, 2007
Richard Pionk, the much-loved president of the Salmagundi Club, died Tuesday, June 5, at the age of 71. Pionk, a talented artist, a revered teacher and engaging wit, guided the club for the past 13 years.
Born April 26, 1936, in Moose Lake, Minn., to Ester and Ignatz Pionk of Kerrick, Minn., Pionk died in New York City after a long battle with cancer. Before moving to New York, he studied briefly in a Franciscan monastery in Missouri and served in the United States Navy.
Pionk learned the qualities of classical still life by spending hours in museums from Brooklyn to Paris, studying the works of Chardin, Vollon and Fantin-Latour. He was educated at The Art Students League of New York City on scholarships and the GI Bill.
Featured in many magazines, exhibitions and books, and a recipient of more than 100 awards, Pionk was named a master pastelist by the Pastel Society of America for Exceptional Merit in 1984. In 1997, he was inducted into the Pastel Hall of Fame.
Artist and friend, Gary Erbe noted Pionk’s love of art, but particularly his love of teaching. “He mastered many mediums, but his language of painting was simple. So his students learned quickly.”
His classes at the Salmagundi Club, The Art Students League and the Pastel School at the National Arts Club were regularly oversubscribed.
Pionk has been featured in the Artist Magazine (April 1988, April 1993), twice in the International Artist magazine (February⁍arch 2001) and in Classical Still Life Painting and Unlocked Potential of Pastel, both by Carol Katchen.
Commenting on his personal techniques and school of painting, Pionk said: “I prefer to work exclusively in my studio where I am able to set up the subject and work directly from life, which gives me maximum control of the choice of objects, placement and lighting. I choose my studio because of the north window, which provides a source of unchangeable light. The lower part of the window is blocked out so as to give the light a downward direction as if it were coming from a skylight.”
Pionk also exhibited with the Pastel Society of America in “Still Life Painters of the 20th Century” at the Hermitage Museum, Norfolk. Va.; the Monmouth Museum, Lincroft, N.J.; The Queen’s Museum; Grand Central Art Gallery, New York City; the Society of Pastelists, Lille, France; and The Butler Institute, Youngtown, Ohio, where his portrait of an Asian woman hangs in the permanent collection.
In 1994 he was included in the exhibition titled “Contemporary Pastel Artists in Taiwan” and a book by the same title was published in January 1994 in Chinese and English. In 1998 he took part of a pastel travel exhibition that toured through several cities in China.
His memberships, other than Salmagundi, included: Allied Artists of America, Board of Directors; The Art Students League of New York; The Pastel Society of America, Trustee; Artist Fellowship, Trustee; National Arts Club; Audubon Artists, Trustee; American Artists Professional League; and many others.
Richard Pionk’s death is a major loss to the art community at both the Salmagundi Club and for all students of art in the city. A formal memorial is now being planned for September, at the Salmagundi Club, 47 Fifth Avenue. For more information, 212-255-7740.
A future issue of the Salmagundi’s Club publication Stew will invite reflections by friends of Richard Pionk. Those who have personal and professional memories to share are encouraged to write them down and email them to Annemarie@artbymaley.com.
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