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The Eulogizer: Alaska artist Alfred Skondovitch, actress Helen Beverley

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Eulogizer highlights the life accomplishments of famous and not-so-famous Jews who have passed away recently. Learn about their achievements, honor their memories and celebrate Jewish lives well lived with The Eulogizer. Write to the Eulogizer at eulogizer@jta.org. Read previous columns here.

Alfred Skondovitch, 84, Abstract Expressionist

Alfred Skondovitch, an artist whose work was displayed with prominent Abstract Expressionists in the 1950s and who later relocated to Alaska, where his artwork continued unabated but out of the mainstream limelight, died July 15 at 84.

Skondovitch was “one of Alaska’s master artists” and was known for “original, colorful, abstract paintings, which were deeply personal.”

Artist David Mollett described Skondovitch’s work as “a cross between Willem de Kooning and Marc Chagall” whose “paintings were really of the quality of that first generation of abstract expressionists.”

From the late 1940s through the early 1950s, Skondovitch, then in New York, participated in exhibitions at prominent galleries such as Rienzi and Egan/Poindexter, where his work was side by side with that of de Kooning, Richard Diebenkorn, Nell Blaine and Milton Resnick.

Skondovitch was born in England to Russian Jewish immigrants, and later studied with the German Expressionist Hans Hofmann in New York. He visited friends in Alaska, where he fought forest fires and met his wife, Patti. They briefly returned to New York but decided to raise their family back in Alaska and settled in Fairbanks.

His daughter, Lara Duke, said her father always felt sadness about not finding more success in New York but was determined to retain his artistic individuality, despite being out of step with typical Alaskan art.

Skondovitch mentored Alaskan artists, taught classes and continued to exhibit throughout Alaska for decades. His last individual showing was held earlier this year. A Facebook page of tributes to him drew numerous personal and artistic tributes.

In a statement on his website, Skondovitch said, “I produce my art because I have to, the way other people breathe. I have worked since childhood. In order to express myself I must get the ideas in my head on paper or canvas. My life is my art, just as my family is my life. I feel you are influenced by others in your art and you also influence others — it is this cauldron that makes the artist."

He said his last paintings would be landscapes in tribute to Alaska and the life he led there for decades.

Helen Beverley, 94, actress

Actress Helen Beverley, who performed in Yiddish theater and films, and was the first wife of actor Lee J. Cobb, died July 15 at the Motion Picture and Television Fund hospital in California at 94.

"Green Fields" (“Grine Felder”), a 1937 film in which Beverley portrayed the female lead, was an adaptation of Peretz Hirshbein’s play that "heralded the Golden Age of Yiddish cinema."

Her 1939 film, "The Light Ahead," offered a “consciousness of the danger looming over European Jewry (that) was painfully apparent even though the film was shot in New Jersey.”

Beverley also acted in Hollywood films, including the Charlie Chan movie "Black Magic" and 1944’s "The Master Race," which “envisaged the dangers of Nazism even after the fall of Germany.”

Beverley married Cobb, born Leo Jacob, in 1940; they divorced in the 1950s. Cobb died in 1976.
 

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