Albert Handell was born 85 years ago in Brooklyn, New York. His first memory of creating art was using chalk to draw on the sidewalks. It ingrained in him a love for painting and drawing what was close up.


In one interview, he said, "We didn't have mountains in Brooklyn. I grew up drawing storefronts and people. I am not architectural. I take part of a building and cast shadows on it."

At 16, he enrolled in the Arts Student's League of New York City and studied with several master painters. Other artists criticized him because he did realistic paintings. He didn't care and decided to go where realistic painting had reached its zenith. In 1961, he traveled to Europe and spent the next four years living in Paris and painting, primarily in oil, in his own studio. He would visit the finest art museums and copy the works of master painters.

When he moved back to the United States, he returned to the city. Then, a trip to Woodstock in 1970 took him to a different opportunity, and he lived there working with pastels and teaching until 1983.

He had previously done most of his work indoors but was attracted to the trees and foliage outside his door in Woodstock. That's when he took his pastels outside and began his trip to becoming a plein air artist. He gained a reputation as one of the most sought-after pastel teachers.

He employed a unique style of teaching. To start the class, the students would gather around him and watch him work without explanations or questions. When he finished, he would discuss his work and answer questions. He was very successful, as he mentored many artists who went on to great careers and became recognized as one of the top five pastel artists in the country.


He'd always heard about the West, So he taught a pastel workshop in Ruidoso, NM, and then drove north through Santa Fe and Taos. He contrasted it with Woodstock, where everything around you was green, and the winters were long. In New Mexico, he fell in love with the sky and the diversity of color.

He then traveled to Monterey but couldn't take the traffic, and while the ocean was always there, you couldn't always see it. In New Mexico and Taos, the sky was always there.

He and his future wife returned to New Mexico and were choosing between Taos and Santa Fe. She decided that the schools were better in Santa Fe, and he decided that Taos was just up the road, so that's how they settled in the art capital of New Mexico.

Why am I sharing this? It is interesting how so many artists from the East Coast found their way to New Mexico. It was a magnet for these free-spirited, creative people. Not long ago, a friend of my father's ended up leaving Durango to get to a lower altitude and assisted living. He asked us to sell his art collection, and one of the pieces was by Albert Handell. It was an opportunity to learn the story of another person who moved to paint the magic of the Southwest.


The pastel painting is called Cypress Market. It captures part of a building, with the wash hanging on the line in the shadow of Cypress Trees. You find a lot of these Conifer evergreens in the Southwest. They grow fast, don't need much water when established, and provide privacy and windbreaks.

It is a beautiful painting of an adobe home in a small town in New Mexico and a perfect example of Albert Handell's work. It is easy to see why he ended up in New Mexico.