Chronological Biography

Rebecca E. Lawton
Curator of Collections
Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center
Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, NY


Rubenstein with his parents c. 1910

December 15: Lewis William Rubenstein born in Buffalo, New York, the oldest of three children of Emil Rubenstein, a lawyer, and Hannah Hirschman Rubenstein. His paternal
grandparents, Catherine Mayerberg Rubenstein and Louis Wolf Rubenstein emigrated from Lithuania, settling in Buffalo in 1867 and 1870 respectively. Rubenstein’s mother’s family is from Cincinnati. With his two younger sisters, Frances and Rena, Rubenstein is raised in a cultural environment. He loves to play sports and draws continuously in his free time. His interest in art is nurtured by his uncle, Jay (Harry) Rubenstein, who enjoys painting
as an avocation, and also by an older cousin, Helen (Nessa) Cohen, a sculptor. One of Rubenstein’s early memories is creating continuous drawings using colored crayons. He
also recalls making humorous cartoons, comic-strip style.

c. 1920-1926

Attends evening classes at Albright Gallery Art School in Buffalo where he learns to draw in charcoal from casts. He is fascinated by books on Japanese art which he reads at
the Grosvenor Library. Rubenstein’s admiration for the Saturday Evening Post illustrations inspires his ambition to become an illustrator. While in high school, Rubenstein
makes comics for the school’s newspaper, as well as for his own enjoyment and the amusement of his family and friends.


Enters Harvard College, class of 1930. Not drawn to his father’s profession, Rubenstein resists his father’s suggestion to prepare for a career in law. He chooses
instead to major in fine arts. While a sophomore, Rubenstein receives the Bower Prize for painting. The award convinces his father to allow him to become an artist. Through Arthur Pope, a professor of Fine Arts at Harvard, and Kojiro Tomita, curator of Asiatic Art at the
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Rubenstein becomes acquainted with the museum’s impressive collection of scroll paintings. Since Harvard’s fine arts curriculum does not allow him the opportunity to concentrate in studio work, Rubenstein leaves college with a strong desire to further his training as an artist. Graduates cum laude.


Summer: To earn money to travel in Europe, Rubenstein makes paintings of private homes in Bay Beach, Ontario, where his family has a summer house. September: Rubenstein leaves for Europe accompanied by Allan Rosenberg, a college friend. They travel tourist, 3rd class, on the Statendam, a Dutch boat, arriving in Holland on September 22. A few days later they leave for Germany and then travel to Italy. In late October they visit France and Rubenstein alone settles in Paris. The American artist, Walter Pach, advises him to study at the Academie Moderne where Fernand Léger and Amédée Ozenfant give weekly critiques. Pach cautions Rubenstein to “let [Léger] roll over you, then pick yourself up.” Rubenstein finds Léger stoical, but Ozenfant is “witty, talented and talkative.” To afford the tuition, Rubenstein works as a class monitor and earns extra money taking photographs and making drawings for the Pittsburgh Bulletin Index. Rubenstein begins keeping a journal, a practice he continues almost daily throughout his life.


Arthur Pope visits Rubenstein in Paris. Impressed with his studies after Renaissance paintings, Pope proposes Rubenstein for Harvard’s Edward R. Bacon Art Fellowship for travel and study. June: Rubenstein receives a two-year Bacon fellowship. He remains in Paris until August 12, then visits England briefly before departing for Italy.


Rubenstein and Rico Lebrun in Galimberti’s studio, Rome 1932

October: Rubenstein settles in Rome. Nessa Cohen introduces him to a fellow artist from the states, Rico Lebrun (1900-1964). They form a close friendship based upon their mutual admiration for Renaissance fresco painters such as Massaccio and Signorelli. Lebrun is an accomplished draughtsman and from him Rubenstein learns a great deal about drawing. Lebrun and Rubenstein study the “true fresco” technique with Silvio Galimberti. [In true fresco, painting is done directly on the damp, freshly plastered wall. The artist wes! quickty and carefully making sure to plaster only as large an area as he can complete in a single day’s work.] June 9-16: Rubenstein and Lebrun visit Orvieto to study Signorelli’s great cycle of frescos at the Orvieto Cathedral (1499-1504).

July: Rubenstein arrives back in the States. Fall: He moves to Cambridge, where, as part of his Bacon fellowship, Rubenstein paints a fresco on the top floor of the Fogg Art Museum (now occupied by the museum’s conservation *studios). The subject is a figure copied from Signorelli’s Finimondo. Winter: Rubenstein travels by bus to Washington, D. C. to join a hunger march. He makes numerous sketches and drawings during the trip.


June: Lebrun returns from Italy. Rubenstein and Lebrun rent a studio in New York City, off Union Square. They share the ambition to paint murals in the tradition of the great Renaissance painters, using contemporary themes. Together they plan a mural based upon the Washington hunger march and make large-scale figure drawings using unemployed men as models.

Spring: Lebrun and Rubenstein travel to Cambridge to execute the mural in fresco on the top floor of the Fogg Art Museum. The mural is a composite of each artist’s drawings and they alternate responsibilities: one artist paints while the other does the plaster work and then reverse roles.


Structure fresco in progress in the basement of the Fogg Art Museum, c. 1935

November 8: Rubenstein gives a demonstration on fresco painting at the Fogg Art Museum. Donates two books of drawings and watercolors to the museum. For the end of a basement corridor at the Fogg Museum, Rubenstein paints a third fresco, Structure, a scene of the construction of the wall itself, simultaneously showing the bricklayer, the
plasterer and the mural painter performing their various tasks. Tanner Clark and Gridley Barrows, among other friends, assist with the work, loosely calling themselves the Guild of the Pineapple, a reference to Rubenstein’s penchant for the fruit, as well as symbol of their apprenticeship. American Scholar (Autumn 1935) publishes Rubenstein’s article “Fresco Painting Today,” in which he argues the viability of fresco painting as a contemporary art form. He writes, “The great need is for murals that will deal constructively with the chaos and conflict about us, for works that will examine closely the forms of our world to find new meaning and new relationships in them.”

July 19: Rubenstein gives a lecture and painting demonstration on fresco painting at the Fogg and later that year on November 5, gives a similar lecture and fresco demonstration at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Based upon his fresco work for the Fogg, Charles L. Kuhn, curator of the Germanic Museum at Harvard (later renamed the Busch-Reisinger Museum), commissions Rubenstein to execute two murals in true fresco in the foyer of Adolphus Busch Hall. The murals are funded by Mrs. Morris Loeb. Recalling a performance of Wagner’s The Ring at the Metropolitan Opera, Rubenstein visualizes a scheme for the murals based upon subjects from Germanic mythology. Rubenstein begins work on the murals, assisted by Gridley Barrows, Tanner Clark and Channing Peake. Lebrun visits occasionally to offer advice. Harvard classmates such as Lincoln Kirstein and Edward M.M. Warburg, who, along with John Walker III, had established The Harvard Society of Contemporary Art in 1929, also visit Rubenstein to examine the mural in progress.


After completing the North wall mural—a scene taken from the Niebelung legend: Alberich driving his dwarfs to labor accompanied by symbolic representations of the Rhine Gold and the Curse of the Ring— a controversy ensues over its content; specifically over the fact that many of the figures are presented in contemporary clothing with modern accoutrements, leading viewers to conclude that the figure of Alberich—depicted in brown military breeches and riding boots—represents Adolf Hitler. The Boston Herald January 31, 1936) reports that the murals are intended as criticism of Hitler and the Nazi regime, which causes a furor at the German Embassy. To avoid further controversy, Kuhn denies that the murals contain any symbolism. The Boston Globe (February 1, 1936) published an article on the murals under the heading “No Hitler in Mural at Harvard, It’s Just Students’ Imagination,” but such press does little to end the controversy. Caspar W. Weinberger, class of 1938, an editor for the Harvard Crimson (October 31, 1936) writes that “[the murals] show the constructive and destructive forces of society opposed to one another, and may be classed as art in the highest sense, certainly detached from any suspicion of political significance.” In order to complete the East Wall mural— “the Doom of the Gods,” a scene of the Battle of the Gods and Giants from the Ragnarok, from the Elder Edda— Rubenstein distances himself from the conflict. He is briefly hospitalized while painting the East wall lunette when the mural’s scaffolding collapses. Eventually, Rubenstein concedes to an interview for the Boston Evening Transcript (December 22, 1936) in which he states, “It [the figure of Albrich] is not Hitler or any contemporary figure. It is not the business of the artist to give political interpretations. Modern accessories are used to make the characters more vivid to people today. Renaissance artists did the same thing.” At time of the unveiling of the murals, The Germanic Museum mounts an exhibition of Rubenstein’s drawings and watercolors which opens on December 21. Harvard art historian, Frederick B. Deknatel, publishes an article on the frescos for the Germanic Museum Bulletin (March 1937). Deknatel praises the murals as a “real accomplishment” and cites Rubenstein’s formidable powers as a draughtsman. He refrains from mentioning the debate over the content, stating instead that “the subjects are treated as an allegory of the destructive and constructive forces in society.” After the controversy has dissipated, Rubenstein admits that he fully intended the murals be viewed as an anti-war, anti- fascist statement, and that the figure of Albrich specifically represented Hitler.


Rubenstein giving fresco demonstration in Boston, 1937

Winter: Rubenstein becomes interested in industrial subjects. Travels to Washington, D.C. and later visits Tennessee, Alabama and Louisiana. During the summer he visits New Mexico, Arizona and California. While in Jerome, Arizona, a small town of 6000 inhabitants in the eastern section of the state, Rubenstein lives in a dormitory with miners at the Phelps Dodge Copper Mine and makes a series of paintings and drawings of the miners.
Rubenstein’s portrayal of the miners is straightforward, based upon direct observation. Spends fall and winter in San Francisco. After returning to New York, Rubenstein
meets Philip Guston (1913-1980), who is working for the WPA in the Mural Division. Lebrun moves to Southern California and settles there permanently.


Spring: Rubenstein returns to Boston to teach fresco painting at the Museum of Fine Arts school. Chie Hirano, the museum’s librarian in the Department of Asiatic Art, introduces Rubenstein to Japanese brushwork. He also begins working as a part-time consultant for the Polaroid Corporation founded by Edwin H. Land, a Harvard classmate and life-long friend. At a salary of $35.00 a week, Rubenstein works with birefringent colors and on three-dimensional films. The job continues until October; later in 1942 Rubenstein rejoins Polaroid to work in the anti-submarine program. May 4-June 1: The Germanic Museum mounts Documentary Sketches by Lewis W. Rubenstein: Drawings and Watercolors of Life in an Arizona Mining Town and on the San Francisco Waterfront, an exhibition of Rubenstein’s western work. A review of the exhibition appears in the Christian Science Monitor.


Summer: Rubenstein rents a studio in New York. His interest in exploring new venues for expression leads him to study lithography with Emil Ganso (1895-1941), whose reputation for craftsmanship is legendary among printmakers.


Receives a one year appointment as an art instructor at Vassar College. Meets his future wife, Erica Beckh, a Vassil graduate, class of 1937, who is teaching art history at the college. Rubenstein prepares designs to submit to the U.S, Treasury Department’s Section of Painting and Sculpture (later titled Section of Fine Arts) for the St. Louis, Missouri
Post Office, one of the large national competitions. Based upon this work, he is awarded $900 to design a mural for the Wareham, Massachusetts Post Office. Edward B. Rowan, the Section’s assistant chief, writes to Rubenstein; “It is suggested that objective reality rather than abstraction be used for the decoration as [objective reality] is more readily acceptable to the public.” Rubenstein chooses the annual cranberry harvest as the mural’s subject and portrays migrant workers engaged in various activities associated with the harvest. He rents an empty store on College View Avenue in Poughkeepsie to draw the
cartoons. The actual painting of the mural is done in tempera on canvas in Somerville, New Jersey, where Rubenstein stays with Tanner Clark’s family.

José Clemente Orozco with his assistant Lewis Rubenstein at work on Dive Bomber and Tank, June 1940 at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, during the exhibition Twenty Centuries of Mexican Art, May 15 through September 30, 1940.
Photograph courtesy, The Museum of Modern Art, New York

April: Rubenstein exhibits a selection of his work at the Vassar College Art Gallery; included are drawings for his frescos at the Fogg and the Germanic Museums, as well i) work from his western tour and his designs for the St. Louis, Missouri Post Office competition. The Art Majors purchase his drawing Steelworker of 1938 for the college’s art collection. Rubenstein meets Poughkeepsie artist Thomas Barrett (1902-1947), whose home at 55 Noxon Street is later bequeathed by Barrett’s sister to the Dutchess County Art Association (founded by Barrett in 1934), as headquarters for the organization’s exhibitions
and art classes. Rubenstein helps Barrett with his experiments in fresco painting and soon joins the lively association of artists dedicated to painting the local scene and exhibiting their works.

June: Rubenstein is hired to assist José Clemente Orozco (1883-1949), who has been commissioned by The Museu of Modern Art, to publicly execute a portable mural in (he
3rd floor gallery in conjunction with the summer exhibition Twenty Centuries of Mexican Art. The mural, entitled Dive Bomber and Tank, is a semi-abstract composition, painted in fresco on six, interchangeable panels, each measuring 9 x 3 feet. When completed, the
mural weighs 1% tons and is sent on tour with the exhibition. Rubenstein supplies technical information for a pamphlet on the project Orozco Explains, published in the
Bulletin of tbe Museum of Modern Art (August 1940).


Fall: Rubenstein does camouflage work for the Army’s Passive Defense Project in Boston.


Summer: Teaches fresco painting and Italian Renaissance art at the University of Buffalo.

September: Rubenstein returns to teaching at Vassar.


Rubenstein leaves to serve in the U.S. Navy where he is commissioned as a Lieutenant and stationed with the Bureau of Ships in Washington, D. C. Rubenstein is assigned camouflage work with Commander Charles Bittinger, John Marin’s half brother. Bittinger arranges a lunch to introduce Rubenstein to Marin. Lacking much free-time and studio space, Rubenstein begins working in watercolor.

June 28: Marries Erica Beckh in Brookline, Massachusetts where Erica has just received a masters in fine arts from Harvard and is working toward a doctorate which is awarded in 1944. The subject of her dissertation is “The Taxpayers’ Murals.”


Harry Rubenstein dies.


February: Rubenstein rejoins the art department at Vassar College with a special salary grant from the trustees. Agnes Rindge Claflin, art department chairman, notes in her
annual report to President MacCracken that Rubenstein had turned down an important offer from the United States Navy to continue special research as director of a permanent visibility theater at the David Taylor Model Base to rejoin the Vassar faculty. Moves into Rombout Apartments next to Vassar Farm; son Daniel is born on November 3. Rubenstein makes a survey of the studio art curriculum at various schools and colleges and begins visiting some of these programs. His work is included in the Annual Exhibition of American Watercolors held at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; The National Drawing Annual at the Albany Institute of History and Art, and the Exhibition of Dutchess County Artists and Painters from the Dutchess County Area, held at the State Teachers College in New Paltz. Rubenstein also has solo exhibitions of his watercolors and gouaches at the Friedman Galleries in New York and the Vassar Cooperative Bookshop.


October: Rubenstein begins experimenting with the idea of painting a continuous scene using the horizontal format of Asian scrolls encased in a special, manually operated, viewing frame, a concept he later calls Time Painting.

October 17: visits Philip and Musa Guston in Woodstock, November 20: Rubenstein’s journal comments “Tom Barrett died this morning, a sensitive painter for whom the struggle of living was too painful.”

December 22: Rubenstein’s one man exhibition at the Norlyst Gallery in New York City opens. Though pleased to be showing his work, he notes in his journal,”Exhibits [are] a necessary evil.” Art News publishes a favorable review of the show, “his academically trained eye looks for and finds the striking design offered by rolling hills and his academically trained hand dexterously translates it into paint.” Rubenstein also begins showing his work at The Three Arts, a book and print shop in Poughkeepsie run by Jesse and Lee Effron. Thereafter, every two years until 1973, the Effrons mount exhibitions of Rubenstein’s work.


January: Rubenstein rents a studio at 385 Main Street in Poughkeepsie where he finds the life of the town stimulating as subject matter for his paintings. He paints the local scene including the older Poughkeepsie neighborhoods, such as Mount Carmel, and picturesque Poughkeepsie streets, such as Jefferson Street.

March: Rubenstein juries the Dutchess County Art Association Exhibition held at the Vassar College Art Gallery.

May: Rubenstein and his family go to Provincetown, Massachusetts for the summer where, under the G.I, Bill, Rubenstein is able to study with the abstract expressionist painter, Hans Hofmann (1880-1966), who runs a summer art school. Rubenstein’s primary reason for attending Hofmann’s classes in composition is to expose his Vassar students to the principles of abstract art. Rubenstein’s journal notes, “His [Hofmann’s] viewpoint seems to be the representation of the relationships of space and form in the subject; definitely mot the subject itself. The representation of space and form is to be by two dimensional elements only. All other means of representation he considers academic. It may well be that his teaching is just as academic in another direction. For me this emphasis seems negative: my material and educated predilection for living form is more or less realistic.” Rubenstein becomes interested in painting the Cape’s sand dunes as he discovers that they provide an
impetus to synthesize Asian and Western concepts. He enjoys walking over the dunes, committing their natural forms and rhythms to memory, and later using his
imagination to improvise a composition based upon the experience. Fall: Rubenstein returns to Poughkeepsie to resume teaching and moves into a spacious, well-lit studio
attached to 153 College Avenue which had belonged to C. K. Chatterton, who taught art at Vassar from 1915 to 1948.

November 19-December 8: One-man exhibition at the Albany Institute of History and Art as part of the regional artists series.

December 15: Celebrates his 40th birthday. Starts reading Albert Schweitzer’s Reverence for Life. Winter: Begins working a scroll panorama and continues experimenting with a simple frame mechanism for viewing the scroll paintings. Reads Schweitzer’s biography of Johann Sebastian Bach and listens to Brahms Requiem.

December 25-28: Trip to New York to visit the Asian collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and to see the Whitney Annual which he finds “depressing as usual.” Returning to Poughkeepsie, Rubenstein begins experimenting with a completely abstract scroll painting in which he tries for the interplay of time-space relation, to dramatize shock value of contrasting forms, colors, space positions, to fill unpainted space with real tension and expectation…”


Rubenstein painting Community Life mural for the Buffalo Jewish Center in Ely Hall, Vassar College, 1949

February 17: Gives fresco demonstration at Vassar and reflects upon how far he has moved from the Italian Renaissance painters and their formal viewpoint. Works on another Time Painting of Vassar Lake in winter. Rubenstein becomes increasingly distressed by a conflict within the art department over the curriculum which has been brewing for the past several years, Rubenstein sides with the art students who resent not being allowed to take more studio classes because of the departmental emphasis upon historical courses (Vassar did not yet offer a major in art studio). Rubenstein envisions expanding the applied arts program to include courses in other media, besides the traditional painting and sculpture classes. He notes in his journal “A conflict of two opposing viewpoints in education—the critical vs. the creative boils down to an opposition of two personalities, Agnes Claflin and myself.”

March 2: Rubenstein delivers a speech on the opportunity for studio art at a Vassar faculty meeting. As a result, he is elected to the Curriculum Committee. Unhappy at the amount of energy teaching and attending to administrative matters drains from his own creative work, but enjoys contact with students.

March 18-20: Attends conference on art education at the Museum of Modern Art. Writes in his journal “As a teacher I believe the best art education for the general student or artist of college age is in a liberal arts college which permits the student to concentrate in creative work. As a painter I feel an identification with [the] search for reality, with human values, with vigorous expression with living forms. My viewpoint is similar to a painter of realism, humanism like Ben Shahn; opposed to the intellectual non-objective group.” Rubenstein takes charge of a visiting artists program at Vassar; Stephen Green, Yasuo Kuniyoshi, Irene Rice Pereira, Ben Shahn, Philip Guston, Jack Levine, Fairfield Porter, Edwin Dickinson and Max Beckman, among others, come to campus over the next several years to talk about their work with students.

April: Introduced to the 104th Psalm by Nessa Cohen in his college years, Rubenstein translates it from Hebrew.

June 13: Travels to Buffalo to discuss creating a mural for Veterans’ Lobby of the Jewish Community Center and begins work on the design for the mural later that month. Rubenstein decides to use the hora as the central theme surrounded by images of music and storytelling. The final version of the mural, entitled Community Life, includes the motif of a young tree growing out of the cut down stump to symbolize the revitalization of contemporary Jewish life. He uses Erica and their son as well as his Poughkeepsie
musician friends as models for some of the figures.


January 18, Buffalo: Dedication of the Jewish Community Center mural which wins Empire State Architects Award Spends summer with family in Wellfleet where he focuses upon painting the sand dunes.


January: Awarded his first Faculty Fellowship to study mural painting in Mexico.

Rubenstein in his classroom at Vassar College, c. 1950s

Spring: Rubenstein becomes Associate Professor of Art at Vassar and is granted tenure. Rubenstein and his family leave for Mexico, traveling by car. Studies painting with José Guttierez. Also works in lithography at Taller Grafica in Mexico City. Visually stimulated by the relationship of the Mexican people to their surroundings, Rubenstein produces numerous drawings and eight lithographs of Mexican street festivals and religious ceremonies, as well as of scenes of laborers observed while driving through the countryside surrounding Oaxaca.

September: Returns to Poughkeepsie.


January: Good Friday, one of the lithographs Rubenstein produced in Mexico, is awarded American Artist Group Prize at The 36th Annual Exhibition of the Society of American Graphic Artists (formerly, The Society of American Etchers) held at Kennedy & Co. in New York. Both the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Rhode Island School of Design purchase the print.

March 9: Rubenstein’s father dies. June: Guillermo Rivas’s article on Rubenstein’s Mexican trip, which originally appeared in Mexican Life published in Vassar Alumnae Magazine.

Summer: Rents a summer camp on Whaley Lake near Pawling. July: Moves to house attached to studio at 153 College Avenue.

September 14: Daughter Emily born.

October 12-November 11: Exhibition in various media, including seven scroll paintings, at the Vassar College Art Gallery.


Rubenstein and his family spend summer in Provincetown. Wins Society of American Graphic Artists’ Knobloch Prize for his lithograph Halberds.


Rubenstein takes family to Salem, Massachusetts for the summer. June: Attends his 25th year reunion at Harvard.

June 13-July 1: Busch-Reisinger Museum mounts a retrospective exhibition of Rubenstein’s work in conjunction with the reunion and sponsors a special lecture Time Painting by Lewis Rubenstein, A Program of Moving Scroll Paintings with Music and Voice.

August: Works on television program of his Time Paintings produced by WGBH Boston; program includes Mining Town, Winter Lake and Main Street. November 1-27: one-man exhibition at the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.


Rubenstein receives a grant from Vassar’s Salmon Fund for Faculty Research and Publication to make a documentary on his Time Painting. Rubenstein produces the 22 minute film with Josef Bohmer and John G. Holmes.

October 27: Film is shown on campus.


Rubenstein showing Ginza Time Painting to Keigetsu at the International House of Japan, 1958

May: Vassar Alumnae Magazine publishes Erica’s article on Rubenstein’s Time Painting.

Summer: Cape Cod with family. Fall: Both Rubenstein and Erica receive Fulbright grants to study in Japan. Rubenstein’s award is to further his interest in sumi [ink painting] and emaki [horizontal scroll painting] by studying the technique with the Japanese sensei [masters] and Erica’s grant is to study contemporary Japanese art.

August: Rubenstein and his family arrive in Tokyo. The Rubensteins spend several
days at Eiheiji, a Buddhist shrine near Kyoto, observing the Zen rituals and studying calligraphy and painting. Rubenstein works primarily with Keigetsu Matsubayashi, one of the foremost traditional painters. He particularly enjoys his association with Keigetsu. Also works in lithography with Onoya-San in Tokyo. The International House of Japan in Tokyo mounts an exhibition of his work.


January: Exhibition of his Japanese work at the Vassar College Art Gallery. Summer: Cape Cod making ink paintings of the dunes which he later composes into a large Time Painting, Dunes. Receives the Fairfield award for Mountain Lake (an ink painting done in Japan), at the 10th anniversary New England exhibition of the Silvermine Guild in New Canaan, Connecticut.

October 19-November 7: one-man exhibition at the Janet Nessler Gallery in New York. During the exhibition Rubenstein gives demonstrations of his Time Paintings at the gallery on Saturdays.


Receives State Department Cultural Exchange Grant for a two-month residency in South America; visits Brazil, Chile and Peru to meet with artists and to paint the local scene.


Vassar College Art Gallery buys Vassar Lake, Time Painting, using newly established Betsy Mudge Wilson Memorial Fund. State Department in Washington, D.C. mounts an exhibition of Rubenstein’s work completed while on the Cultural Exchange Grant.


Receives his second Vassar Faculty Fellowship to study in Europe. June: Sails aboard the S.S. United States for France; Erica and the children join him in Spain later that month. Travels to Portugal then to Rome where he rents a studio on the Piazza Biscione along with other American artists.


February 4-March 1: Exhibition at the Vassar College Art Gallery


March 29-April 16: Exhibition at Ruth White Gallery in New York City. Summer: Travels to Greece and Israel where he observes a Chassidic wedding on his first night in Jerusalem. He later uses the scene as the subject for a 1968 lithograph.


Completes Time Painting of the 104th Psalm in watercolor on linen. Rubenstein considers this work a visual summation of his personal philosophy of living. “While my own point of view in painting is essentially representational, my objective is an expressive use of nature.” The scroll begins with images of creation and recalls recurrent themes from his work such as of Mexican women laboring in the fields, hora dancers, and the Cape’s dunes.


January: Receives his third Vassar Faculty Fellowship to study in Europe, spends most of his time in Rome. Vassar Temple commissions Thou Renewest the face of the Earth in memory of Andrew H. Erdreich.


February 11-March 13: Exhibition at the Vassar College Art Gallery; included are recent paintings done in Rome, Maine and Poughkeepsie. In the preface to the catalogue Rubenstein writes, “My own base is sort of an amalgam of elements from many traditions, Eastern and Western, including Oriental ink and scroll paintings; the wash drawings of Rembrandt and Goya; Italian fresco painters; Seurat and Cézanne. After years of working, I feel these differing directions are fusing into something that is my own.”


Ceremony for a New Planet, a film directed by James Steerman of several of the Time Paintings is produced, features poetry by Nancy Willard, and piano pieces by Todd Crow.


May 5-June 7: Retrospective Exhibition at the Vassar College Art Gallery organized on the occasion of Rubenstein’s retirement from teaching. Named Professor Emeritus of Art.


December 15: Nessa Cohen dies.


Beatrice Schuller Cohen publishes “Lewis Rubenstein and His Time Paintings” in American Artist (November).

May 2-May 27: One-man exhibition at the Dutchess County Art. Association/Barrett House.


June: Attends 50th reunion of the Class of 1930 at Harvard. Draws humorous cartoons to illustrate the event.


Begins painting improvisations on the Biblical theme of Creation. He later explains to Raymond S. Steiner in Art Times (December 1984), that in the Creation Series, “the composition is carefully laid out and takes much time and thought. The spontaneity begins the moment I begin to paint—it is here, once the planning is over, that I try to allow the work to impose its own direction, to dictate its own flow.


October 8-November 5: One-man exhibition at the Dutchess County Art Association/Barrett House.


Rubenstein painting at Greystone, 1989
Photograph: Eric Lindbloom

Receives a Dutchess Art Fund Grant from the Dutchess County Arts Council. Awarded the Dutchess County Executive Arts Award. Produces a video on Time Painting of Psalm 104 which is accompanied by a musical score performed by Todd Crow and narration by Donald Wildy and Allelu Kurten.


June 9- July 30: Lewis Rubenstein: Watercolors exhibition at the Vassar College Art Gallery, Warburg Print Room


March 23-April 12: Dutchess County Art Association/Barrett House mounts an exhibition of Rubenstein’s work.

September 9-October 15: River, Field & Park, a joint exhibition by Eric Lindbloom, Howard Knotts and Rubenstein at the Cunneen Hackett Cultural Center in Poughkeepsie.


May 4: Harvard University Art Museums holds a reception to honor Rubenstein on the occasion of the restoration of the Busch-Reisinger Museum murals.