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A Centenary Celebration of Alfred Cohen; 1920 – 2001

Ella Martignetti
17th Jan 2020
By Ella Martignetti

May the 9th marks the centenary of artist Alfred Cohen’s birth. Alfred Cohen was born in Chicago, the son of Latvian immigrants, and attended the Art Institute of Chicago.  During World War Two he served with the US Army Air Force in the Pacific and later returned to the Art Institute of Chicago, where he earned a scholarship to study in Europe in 1949.  He travelled widely in Europe  and was much influenced by the Italian Comedy tradition with its exaggerated characters (Commedia dell’ Arte) and the French painter, sculpture and satirist  Daumier as well as the Expressionist and Post expressionist painters.  Living first in Paris and later in England he developed a distinctive sensuous, expressive and rich style painting both portraits and landscapes in vivid colours.  He enjoyed a long and successful career until his death in Norfolk in 2001 and his works are now to be found in many collections and National Institutions around the world.

In 2014 Maidstone Museums were fortunate enough to receive one of Alfred Cohen’s works for our collection from the Trustees of the Alfred Cohen Art Foundation. The work was donated by his widow, Diana Cohen. The work is called ‘Small Haven’ and is a harbour scene showing his bold use of colour and the use of a technique called impasto, paint laid on in thick intricate layers, allowing the brush strokes to stand out and giving an aliveness and physicality to the image.  It also features his love of blue, green and red colours.  Like many of Cohen’s paintings it is a small work, only 25.5 x 31 cm, but jewel like and intense. Coastal themes feature prominently in his works where he is fascinated by the play of light and colour.

The painting dates to circa 1966/67, which is the period where Alfred Cohen was settled in Kent. The Kentish landscape provided an important inspiration to his artistic development. The green lanes, the feeling of privacy and connectedness made him explore how to convey the mood in artistic form.

If this little taster in celebration of Alfred Cohen’s centenary has left you wishing to know more then information about The Alfred Cohen foundation and more examples of the artist’s work, including other Kentish works like Near Goudhurst, can be seen on the blog of Professor Max Saunders who is researching the artist:


Pernille Richards, Collections Officer

Small Haven, MNEMG 2014.7 Photo courtesy of The Alfred Cohen Art Foundation