Sergei Bongart

by Mary N. Balcomb

A highly accomplished artist herself, Mary Balcomb had many talents that included etching, oil & watercolor painting, and illustration. Her landmark book on Russian artist Nicolai Fechin is largely responsible for the immense popularity and increased value of Fechin’s work worldwide, and an original signed limited-edition copy of the book itself can command upward of $2000 in today’s market. A third-printing is now available through

Fellow countryman Sergei Bongart bought the Fechin studio in Santa Monica’s Rustic Canyon, where he lived until his death in 1985. He taught Hollywood stars such as James Cagney, Gene Hackman, Carroll O’Conner, Jeanne Crain, Jack Lemmon, Yvette Mimieux, Ralph Bellamy, Henry Mancini, and Jonathan Winters, and his legendary painting workshops were attended by the elite of American artists such as Bill Reese, Del Gish, Ron Lukas, Don Sahli, Ron Riddick, Melinda Miles, Ned Mueller, Diane McClary, Peter Liashkov, and Sunny Apinchapong.

This beautiful volume (splendidly designed by Norman L. Nason) is resplendent with Bongart’s masterful paintings and drawings, and is interlaced with a biographical account showing the evolution of his oeuvre from Kiev to California. Highly trained in traditional academic methods at Kiev Art Institute, his work has the emotional quality of Russian Realism tempered by the light and brilliance of Impressionism. Life in Kiev, WWII, unique survival, emigration to the USA, and his exceptional teaching and painting careers are discussed.

“Warm, humorous, colorful! Sergei at his best—as when he discusses art and poetry—and in his sometimes caustic mode as a teacher. This work has the ring of truth in it and anyone who has studied with Sergei can’t help but experience all over again those wide-ranging emotions that resulted from interaction with him on a personal or academic level. Mary Balcomb captures the essence and spirit of this beloved artist and teacher and the genuine feelings of all whose lives he touched. She has done a real service to all who have an interest in Sergei’s life by connecting the fragments of his life into a continuous and logical sequence. For anyone else, this book will be a great introduction to the unique Sergei Bongart.”  — Del Gish (former student and assistant, art instructor, Nazarene College)

“I don’t know of anyone who made such an impression on so many people—and he was entertaining as well. We were blessed to have known him.” — Lois McFarland (former student)

When Bongart saw Mary Balcomb’s book on Nicholai Fechin, he said, “I want Mary to write one about me!” Sadly, Sergei did not live to see the book’s publication.

2nd printing sold out. First-edition $160, hard cover, in original shrink wrap, 223 pgs.

Be sure to visit the BLOG for articles about the making of Sergei Bongart, the author, and other artists associated with Bongart. Also, see Mary’s etching here.