Sam Grodensky (1894-1974) began his life as an artist at a time when his contemporaries were planning their retirements. Those who saw him during these years assumed that he must have been an artist all his life and born with a pencil and sketchpad in his hands. The many hundreds of paintings and sketches now in private galleries around the United States represent the work of these last eighteen years of life.
The work he produced from the time he closed his Brooklyn, New York, business and moved to Coral Gables in 1956 until the time of his death in 1974, combined the experiences and inspiration of a lifetime. Some of Grodensky's work centers around Jewish themes drawn from memories of his Brooklyn Orthodox Jewish home and neighborhood. Other work by Grodensky seems to have been inspired by the French Impressionists or by the sun drenched landscape of South Florida.
The youngest of 11 children, Grodensky had always planned to join his father in his yarn and wool business, but studied art at the National Academy of Design at his father's insistence. Following his Army service in World War I, Grodensky returned to Brooklyn to his father's business. An easel always stood in the back of the store and the slow days of the Depression gave him more time to devote to what had become his genuine satisfaction in life. Despite the challenge of developing a small neighborhood business into an area landmark and financial success, Grodensky was constantly plagued by the feeling that life was passing him by, and that he needed to find the time to become an accomplished painter. With the closing of his business, followed by his move to Florida at the age of 62, Grodensky was finally able to begin a new life.
"Once he settled in Florida, he never had to travel for inspiration," said Morris Richman, his son-in-law. He was a driven man who felt he needed to use every waking moment to make up for the 40 wasted years he spent in business. Following three years of study with Miami artist Eugene Massin, Grodensky developed his own themes and style. His paintings evolved from a highly detailed classical realist style into a more free-flowing impressionist style. His themes varied from traditional Judaic themes to the secular horses and musicians. Grodensky exhibited and sold to a growing audience of devotees.
Beginning with local exhibits in 1958, Grodensky's work traveled throughout the United States winning first prizes in numerous shows. His work was displayed at the Lowe Art Gallery in Coral Gables, the Park Avenue Synagogue in New York, the Telshe Yeshiva in Cleveland and Temple Judea in Coral Gables. His success with sculpture, begun in 1967, was short lived because Grodensky's doctors advised him that the work was too strenuous.
"Every morning is a gift," Grodensky used to say. His inspiration and prolific output was limited only by time. He considered the last 18 years of his life the most satisfying. Like his contemporary painter, Hans Hofmann (1880-1966), Grodensky painted his best works in the final decades of life. Grodensky believed that God granted him two lives. His oeuvre reflects the depth of experience of his first life fused with the newfound vitality of his second.