Manuel Bromberg

Manuel Bromberg: The Cliff Sculptures

by Donna Calcavecchio

From New Deal muralist to decorated WWII war artist,  award-​​winning painter to pioneer creator of monumental cliff sculptures, Bromberg has been steadfast in his quest to explore uncharted territory. Unswervingly loyal to his own sensibilities, he defies category or the restraints of a single style and with each passing year the significant impact of his art becomes more apparent. At 98, Bromberg continues his life’s work.  —

Manuel Bromberg

Manuel Bromberg, photo by Mary Bloom, 2014

Monumental, the ideal word to describe the cliff sculptures, an excellent word to describe the man. I had the privilege of meeting Manuel Bromberg in Woodstock several years ago through my friend Tina, his daughter. I was greeted at the door by an impressively tall and robust man who graciously welcomed me into his home. We sat before a large and arresting portrait of his deceased wife Jane, and Manuel proceeded to regale me with stories from his teaching career, more specifically from his years at the State University at New Paltz.

Portrait of Jane

Portrait of Jane

Mostly, we talked about art.

What makes good art. How to teach art. Can you teach art — I was mesmerized and although I had studied at one of the preeminent art schools in the country, I felt I’d been let down. I fervently wished I could study drawing and painting all over again, but only if my instructor was Manuel Bromberg. I learned more about art in the brief hour I spent with him than in my four years of college.

It’s not that my instructors were incapable, or that I didn’t learn anything, quite the contrary —they were all excellent artists. Most were world-​​renown painters, illustrators and graphic artists. Many were excellent teachers. The difference is that Manuel has an irrefutable authority: a vast knowledge, coupled with far-​​reaching experience and an unsurpassed presence that is, simply put, awe-​​inspiring.

Catskill II, 5' x 6'9"

Catskill II, 5′ x 6’9″

During a period when nature is being raped and polluted, when out cybernetic buildings make us forget its existence, how admirable it is that one sculptor was moved, and had the skill, ruggedness and determination, to recreate a huge fragment of nature’s randomness and structure and present it before us for meditation and rejuvenation. Such audacity, one feels, would have delighted the souls of William Cullen Bryant and Thomas Cole.” —William Seitz, Curator of the Department of Painting and Sculpture Exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art, New York 1960 – 1970

The cliff sculptures are a majestic and beautiful reflection of a landscape that has inspired many painters from Cole and Church to a diverse group of today’s contemporary artists. Here is yet another uniquely distinctive art form the Hudson Valley has given birth to.

Don’t miss this exhibition and if you can make it to the opening, be sure to be there for the artist’s talk at 3pm.

Ohayo, 6'5" x 7'

Ohayo, 6’5″ x 7′

Birds have built nests, as have wasps, on the cliffs. Lichen grows on it. Snow and rain fall on its surface and run off. The color deepens or fades with sunlight. All in all, each cliff stands as a landscape in its own right.” —Manuel Bromberg

For more about Manuel Bromberg, his life and work go to:

Exhibition Dates: May 1 – June 7, 2015  |  Opening Reception on Saturday, May 2, 4:00 – 6:00 pm

Artist’s Talk: Talk with Manuel Bromberg, Saturday, May 2, 3:00 pm

Location: BYRDCLIFFE Kleinert/​James Center for the Arts, 36 Tinker Street, Woodstock, NY

Gallery Hours: Thursday through Sunday, 12:00 – 6:00 pm, or by appointment on Tuesday and Wednesday, 10:00 am – 5:00 pm

For more information about the exhibit, go to:

featured image by Brian Lanker, 2000

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