Springfield Library and Museums Association

Springfield, MA




David Brega and Douglas Brega: Oil & Water


Paintings by twin-brother artists will be on display from September 20 through December 31, 2000, at the Springfield Museum of Fine Arts in the special exhibition "David Brega and Douglas Brega: Oil & Water."

Organized by the museum, Oil & Water is a 25-year retrospective of the Bregas' work and their first major joint exhibition. A comprehensive catalogue, with an introduction by novelist Anita Shreve, accompanies the show. Following its showing in Springfield, the exhibit will travel to the Albrecht-Kemper Museum of Art in St. Joseph, Missouri.

Douglas Brega paints realistic watercolors of the people and places of New England. His work is often compared to that of Andrew Wyeth, a comparison that Doug finds very flattering. His architectural landscapes of lighthouses, old Colonial homes, Cape Cod windows, and weathered buildings capture the simple grandeur of New England. In her catalogue introduction, Shreve wrote about one of Doug's architectural landscapes, "I would one day love to write a novel that is in words what 'Meeting House' is in paint." (left: Douglas Brega, Joanna, 1988, drybrush on paper, 26 1/2 x 21 1/2 inches)

Douglas Brega is attracted to clean shapes, angled lines, and the play of light and shadow. He usually works from photographs, sometimes taking as many as 100 slides which he uses to make preliminary sketches. His paintings are meticulously rendered in the difficult medium of watercolor and drybrush, which allows him to achieve extraordinary detail.

When he does portraits, Doug prefers painting "characters" that he discovers himself, not commissioned likenesses. "I'm attracted to the overall look about somebody, the contours of their face and the way they're dressed," he explained. "I'm curious about who they are, and then I get to know them and try to bring out their personality in my work."

David Brega works in the trompe l'oeil tradition. Trompe l'oeil means "to fool the eye" into believing that that which is painted is real. He is often told that his paintings look as real as photographs, but he emphasizes that he is not a photorealist: "Photos look like photos. Trompe looks like it's there."

David can't pass an antique store without finding something to use in his paintings. He is attracted to old, worn surfaces and intrigued by light and patina. His studio on the second floor of the old G.A.R. Hall in Marshfield Hills, Massachusetts, is filled with props and set-ups. His most recent painting, "Colors," is being shown for the first time in this exhibition. The painting is of an elaborately decorated leather jacket with an American flag as a backdrop. The jacket belongs to his friend, Joey Kramer, the drummer from the rock group Aerosmith. The title "Colors" refers to the term that motorcyclists use to describe their personalized jackets. David wove the colors theme into his composition by including the flag (flying the colors) and a playbill from a performance of "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat," in which his son Jess appeared with Donny Osmond. (left: David Brega, Catch Me If You Can, 1998, oil on masonite, 12 x 20 inches)

"'Colors' is the most significant work I've done because it's all my own," David said. "It's a true contemporary work of art for someone who works in the long tradition of trompe l'oeil. 'Colors' is 20th-century Americana - the use of the flag, the reference to rock music, the design, the texture. I've brought trompe into the present by breaking some of the strict traditional rules and inventing a few of my own."

David and Douglas Brega were born on Christmas Day, 1948, in Springfield, Massachusetts, and were raised in nearby East Longmeadow. They studied together at Paier School of Art in New Haven, Connecticut, under the noted trompe l'oeil artist Ken Davies, who stressed the importance of drawing as a foundation for their work.

In 1971, Douglas said to David, "You take oil. I'll take water," thus defining the direction their art would take. Both spent some time as commercial artists, and worked together on an enormous 80' x 40' double portrait of Frank Sinatra that hung outside Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas in 1979 as a 64th birthday tribute to the entertainer.

David and Douglas each had their own solo shows at the Alexander Gallery on Madison Avenue in New York. Both shows sold out, launching each of them into one of the largest collections in the world, that of Michigan entrepreneur Richard Manoogian. Their works are also in the collection of Kansas City banker Crosby Kemper, and Doug's work is in the permanent collections of the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art and Design in Kansas City, Missouri, and the Albrecht-Kemper Museum of Art. Works by David and Douglas have been on a total of 11 Yankee magazine covers, including David's trompe l'oeil work, "Yankee Rack Picture," which appeared on the jacket of the commemorative book The Best of Yankee Magazine.

"David Brega and Douglas Brega: Oil & Water" is sponsored by the Enid and Crosby Kemper Foundation, Anonymous, Mr. & Mrs. Van-Lear Black, III, Ann Boisvert, Family of Edward J. Brennan, Jr., Irene E. & George A. Davis Foundation, Clement J. Deliso, Sr., Dianne & Paul Doherty, Mr. Harvey Eisen & Ms. Andrea Herron, Mr. & Mrs. Michael G. Ferrel, Hasbro, Inc., Melinda & Stanley R. Jaffe, April & Joey Kramer, Lasertone Corporation, Paul & Linda Perkins, Steven & Christine Rales, Stephen & Linda Waterhouse, Robin & Tom Wheeler, and the Wood Family Foundation.

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This page was originally published in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information. rev. 3/18/11

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