Recently on view at the Corwith House in Bridgehampton was an exhibition of watercolors by North Fork artist Bernard Springsteel called Landscapes of Eastern Long Island. Springsteel’s 36 paintings captured the beauty and texture of the East End, depicting old barns, farmhouses and watercraft that have endured the test of time. A fitting location for the show, the Corwith House dates back to 1830 and is listed on the New York State Registry of Historic Places and is part of the Bridgehampton Historical Society (now known at the Bridgehampton Museum)—a two-acre plot on Main Street that also includes two contemporary barns, a wheelwright’s shop (c. 1870), a 1907 jail and an outhouse (c.1890).
Now in his 80s, Springsteel has generously donated 31 of the 36 watercolor paintings that were on exhibit at the Bridgehampton Museum to their permanent collection. The works will be stored in the Bridgehampton Museum Archives Building until the work on the Nathaniel Rogers House is completed. (The Bridgehampton Society became the steward of the 1840 Nathaniel Rogers House located on the southeast corner of Montauk Highway and Ocean Road in 2003.) The Society, in collaboration with the Town of Southampton, is engaged in a major restoration project of the Nathaniel Rogers House, which is slated to open in December 2015. Springsteel’s watercolors will then be moved to the Nathaniel Rogers House permanently and displayed in revolving exhibitions. According to the Museum’s Collections Manager, Curator and Archivist, Jane Greene, “This represents another documentation of the evolving landscapes on the East End and it fulfills our mission to accurately preserve history by documenting it through paintings of local landscapes.”
Springsteel’s donation to the Bridgehampton Museum is both rewarding to the museum and to Springsteel himself. He felt a need to place the paintings where they would be appreciated. Now they will be exhibited and preserved in perpetuity.
Bernard Herbert Springsteel has a B.F.A. from Pratt Institute. After 30 years of experience as an art director in the magazine and book publishing industry, he began his career in fine arts as both a sculptor and painter. His paintings reflect local barns, old farmhouses, boats, watercrafts, and lighthouses.
Springsteel knows both the North and South Forks very well, as he has resided in Southold for the past 12 years. He remarks, “The area is rich in landscapes and has a lot of character.” He often drives around with his camera, looking for something “artistically appealing to photograph.” He takes several photographs from different viewpoints and brings them back to his studio, where he puts his compositions together. Springsteel is attracted to objects “that have weathered the test of time and are starting to age,” like an old barn, or old boat. His watercolor paintings are all about the composition and the effect time has played on them. The painter is excited to “capture things before they disappear.”Springsteel observes, “My watercolor paintings reflect somewhat different themes but nevertheless reflect the world as it is and particularly the way it was before us. I particularly like to find old homes and watercraft that have seen the test of time and now make a statement of their antiquity.”
Springsteel has published three books— Carpentry & Rough Wood, Bernard Herbert Springsteel, A Life in Art and The Figure of Life. His artworks have been exhibited at many art galleries including at the Suffolk County Historical Society (adding several watercolors to their permanent collection in 2012), the Salmagundi Club, Terrence Joyce Gallery, deCordova Gallery, East End Arts Council (where he was awarded Honorable Mention for “Boats”), and Pratt Institute Gallery (where his watercolor “Down Home” resides in their permanent collection). His works are also found in the permanent collection of the Brooklyn Historical Society. The artist continues to paint mostly oil paintings and figurative paintings as well as drawings.
With the goal of the Bridgehampton Museum and the Town of Southampton to make the Nathaniel Rogers House once again a landmark and a cultural resource center for the community, Springsteel’s donation is a valuable contribution to this effort.
For more info, visit bridgehamptonhistoricalsociety.org.