NPF Mourns the Loss of Jose Bernal

Release date: 4/26/2010

NPF joins the Bernal family to mourn the loss of our dear friend, Jose Bernal, an artist who had Parkinson's disease.   Jose was an amazing artist who never let Parkinson's slow him down. He donated many of his paintings to NPF and he was featured as "The Face of an Artist" in the 2008 NPF Annual Report.  Just last year, Jose said, "I have refused to give in to the difficulties of Parkinson's disease or to let the disease take away my vocation and life's work. I have continued to paint, draw and produce art even though Parkinson's disease has severely impacted my life for the past 20 years." Jose's generosity and life's work lives on.

Jose Bernal's obituary from The Chicago Tribune follows:

Jose Bernal, 1925-2010
Cuban artist found a new home in Chicago

By Trevor Jensen, Tribune reporter
4:19 PM CDT, April 25, 2010

Jose Bernal, an artist and teacher, ran afoul of Fidel Castro's government in his native Cuba but was able to get off the island and come to America in the early 1960s.

He settled in Chicago, taught art at city high schools and painted colorful works for retail outlets, while also pursuing his more personal, abstract artistic vision in paintings, collage and assemblage work.
Mr. Bernal, 85, died of complications from Parkinson's disease on Monday, April 19, at his home in Skokie, said his daughter, Lucrecia Bernal-Schneider.

His work is in the collections of several museums including the San Antonio Museum of Art. Six years ago, having been diagnosed with Parkinson's, he donated 300 pieces from his collection for auction by the National Parkinson Foundation, his daughter said.

Art was his passion from an early age. His parents had supported his artistic ambitions as he grew up in Santa Clara, Cuba, the capital of a province in the center of the Caribbean island. After getting a master's degree in art, he began a teaching career while continuing to work as an artist.
He was suspicious of Castro from the beginning, suggesting that the revolutionary leader was in fact putting Cuba on a path toward communism. During the ill-fated 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion Mr. Bernal was rounded up with many other alleged dissidents and held for a time in a university gymnasium, his daughter said.
Married with three children, he made arrangements to leave Cuba for America. With the help of the Methodist Church, the Bernals were able to board a Pan Am flight for Miami in 1962. Not long afterward, they came to Chicago, sponsored by a church in the South Side Avalon Park community.

He found a job with a firm that handled design for store windows and worked for several years as a designer with Marshall Field's. Determined to get back into teaching, he took classes for certification at Northeastern Illinois University and had his Cuban education certified by the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
He also studied under the acclaimed Chicago painter Seymour Rosofsky.
From the early 1970s until 1993, he taught at a succession of high schools, including Juarez, Steinmetz and Von Steuben.

He painted steadily but did not exhibit widely. Through his work for Marshall Field's fine art department, he came to the attention of New York gallery owner Betty Parsons, who asked him to paint for her galleries, said Dorothy Chaplik, a friend of Mr. Bernal's and author of three books on Latin American art, two of which examine his work.

When he was in Cuba, he often painted in blacks, grays and whites, with dabs of color. His work done in Chicago is more brightly colored, spontaneous and alive, Chaplik said.

Mr. Bernal is also survived by his wife, Estela; two sons, Alejandro and Walter; a brother, Miguel; a sister, Cecelia; and five grandchildren.

Services have been held.

ttjensen@tribune.com

Copyright © 2010, Chicago Tribune

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