The BCK Fine Arts Gallery at Montauk is pleased to present selected works of Gretna Campbell and Louis Finkelstein, recognizing their contributions to the

“Languages of Landscapes“ :: July 20-Aug 6

Gretna Campbell


The estates of Gretna Campbell and Louis Finkelstein are a rich treasure trove of works that reflect the transition from natural realism to abstract expressionism and then back to very personal adaptations of the two methods. Although married and working in close proximity to each other for over 30 years, these two remarkable painters arrived at different conclusions, or languages, of how to convey their observations of their settings in nature on canvas. Gretna Campbell, a respected artist and influential teacher, was best known for her large landscapes. Summarizing her own efforts, she stated, “I intend to find out something of the nature of the world through seeing. Or maybe I only intend to prolong my delight in seeing”. In the works presented in this show, her joy is evident in her observations of that natural world, as she saw it, in locations in New Jersey, Maine, and France. Ms. Campbell grew up in the East Bronx, attending a local public high school. Without any evident artistic stimuli in her background, except an art workshop offered through the WPA, she sought and achieved entry into Cooper Union. At that time, the philosophy of the Bauhaus movement was strong there; but, she was also exposed to the methods of traditional painting. Surrounded in New York City by students of Hans Hoffman, it was impossible for her to ignore the pervasive influence of Abstract Expressionism. The assimilation of these divergent approaches, combined with her need to work directly from nature, yielded the vitality of brush and color that drove Gretna Campbell’s landscapes. While the manner in which she handled the paint was impacted by abstract expressionism, Gretna Campbell insisted upon remaining a painter who closely observed and intensely experienced the natural forms with which she surrounded herself. Nature provided a lush and bountiful experience for her work. Her landscapes are both colorful and lyrical in their construction. They are deeply imbued with life – the life her eye experienced as she stood before the panorama of the natural world. Over many years of teaching at The Philadelphia College of Art, Yale University, Maryland University College of Art and The New York Studio School, Gretna Campbell was able to share the varied influences that she blended and developed successfully over the years, benefitting the next generation of painters. She is often praised by them for expanding their understanding of direct observation while encouraging them to be risk takers.


Featured Work

Apple Tree in the Mist

36″ x 42″

Looking Up

48″ x 50″


25″ x 32″

Studio in the Garden

55″ x 60″

Plum Tree

52″ x 52″

Louis Finkelstein


Louis Finkelstein, too, was a respected artist and influential teacher, known for his articulate lectures and intense critiques. He also wrote on the subject of art. His publication of “Painterly Representation” clearly depicts his understandings of his own philosophies on the practices of creating art. Born in New York City, he attended Cooper Union, The Art Students League, and the Brooklyn Museum School of Art. Campbell and Finkelstein met as students and, therefore, were exposed to many of the same methodologies and theories throughout their educations. Despite the fact that Louis Finkelstein cited Gretna Campbell as one of the influences on his body of work, a myriad of impacts from other sources resulted in a different synthesis, when developing his own configurations. As Mr. Finkelstein moved into his teaching career, he found it to be both a benefit and a deficit. He clearly recognized that his many years as an educator forced him to clarify his own thoughts on painting and the processes he followed to achieve his results. As he prepared for his classes at Philadelphia College of Art, Yale University, where he was also a dean for two years, and CUNY, Queens College, where he led the Art Department for over 25 years, he had to be introspective, investigating his own thought process and observations when he faced a blank canvas. Only when his procedures were clearly codified in his own mind was he comfortable articulating his observations to his students. While this made him an inspiring teacher, spending his time thinking, analyzing, writing and preparing his lectures, took precious time from pursuing his own art. In his later reflections, he concluded that his own work took a more serious turn only after he spent a year on sabbatical in Aix-en-Provence (1971-72). The canvases shown here represent that time in France and those years immediately after, painting in Connecticut. Louis Finkelstein saw his teaching and his production of art as inseparable, one informing the other in an ongoing process. As he stated in an interview with Professor Harry Naar of Rider University, his painting was “. . . a dialogue between the abstract, spontaneous application of paint and the representational, analytical approach”. His students have continued that dialogue, perpetuating his legacy among their own students.


Featured Work

Flower Bed Norfolk

28″x 30″

Big Lawn Norfolk CT 1976

42″ x 44″

Henry and Gretna at Bibemus

41″ x 52″

Val du Tholonet

38″x 46″


87 South Euclid Ave.
Montauk, NY 11954
Tel: 631.594.1402 or 914.282.5517


Kathleen Semergieff
Gallery Director

Open Hours May-October