for his hyper-realistic style, Michael A. F. Gumbert was awarded
the Art Master's Artist of the Year Award in 1996 from the American
His artworks have been featured in nearly every art magazine
Born in Philadelphia, he was considered gifted and began taking
college art courses at the tender age of thirteen. Michael traveled
an hour on the train into Philadelphia, just so that he could
attend classes at the Philadelphia College of Art and Design.
Michael was then awarded a full scholarship to the Art Institute
of Chicago. While there, he was greatly influenced by Chuck Close
and Phillip Pearlstein.
Photo realism was becoming a counter shift to the abstract expressionist
movement, which was very prevalent at the time. For the artist
Michael Gumbert, being able to create paintings which reflected
the world around him was a challenge and required a different
skill, something other than putting large swatches of color on
a canvas. Concept was given a greater emphasis over technical
ability in almost all of the universities and art colleges in
the day, as it is to this day.
Michael felt that there was more to art than just controversial
subject matter and strange conceptual methods. He wanted to learn
how the Old Masters painted and to learn the actual techniques
they used to create their works. So he entered a Master's competition
as an undergraduate and won. Michael was able to use this as
a way to enroll in The University of Art in Perugia, Italy where
Perugino once taught Raphael.
At the University of Art in Perugia, Michael was able to study
the classical techniques of the old masters. During a break in
class, Michael painted the portraits of two fellow students simultaneously.
One was from India, which he painted left-handed, and the other
from Ireland, which he painted right-handed. Since childhood
Michael trained himself to paint with both hands, should something
happen to his dominant hand, making it impossible to paint. This
proved necessary as Michael was struck by an automobile one month
prior to leaving for Italy. He was in a coma for ten days, and
sustained so many serious injuries, the doctors did not think
he would survive, least of all, paint again. Michael was determined
and against doctor's recommendations boarded the plane to Italy.
Michael painted left-handed
primarily in the beginning, but slowly
recovered the use of his dominant right hand. His painting instructor
standing to the side watched these theatrics and was impressed.
The instructor asked Michael if he would accompany him to Florence
to help with a restoration project. Michael went and his artistic
career changed forever.
While in Florence, Michael entered the world of art restoration,
there on a table lay a painting which was in need of restoration.
Michael was asked to reproduce a unique brushstroke. The painting
instructor felt that perhaps Michael's ability to paint left
or right handed might give a different insight into the approach
of making a close replica of the original brushstroke.
After several days and many failed attempts, Michael went off
to paint something other than the brushstroke. Upon arrival,
Michael realized he had forgotten his brushes. On the ground
all around were feathers and full wings from birds which had
fallen prey to others. Michael picked up a wing to use as a brush
and began painting in the background. In that moment he realized
that the feathers in the wing gave a texture to the paint that
very closely matched the brushstroke that for days had eluded
Later, it was proven to have been created by a tail feather of
a wild turkey and the painting was a Rembrandt original. Since
that time, Michael has used feathers of all kinds, wings from
many birds and just about anything he feels will make the mark
he desires. Michael was given the opportunity to study under
several painting instructors, learning many of the techniques
of these great masters. Michael studied in Italy for two years.
Today, Michael creates paintings which appear like a photograph
at first glance, but upon closer observation one sees the careful
placement of the brushstrokes and textures. Your mind tells you
it is a photograph and that it seems unbelievable, but yet it
is clearly more than that. This is the reaction that photo-realists
hope to elicit, in hyper-realism they hope to elicit a sense
of being there.
His artworks have been exhibited in the Museum of Art in Perugia,
The Vatican in Rome and in many galleries around the world.
Michael is married. He and his wife Katherine live in the Bay
Area of California.