David Foster Pratt

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David Foster Pratt (American, 1918-2010) noted Western New York artist, painter, instructor, draftsman, designer and carpenter who was best known for his landscape and cityscape watercolors and oil paintings, but also worked in charcoal, conté crayon and pencil. David was born on January 11, 1918 in Ithaca, NY to printer, William Walter Pratt (1862-1949) and Edith Genevieve (née Chesbro) Pratt (1886-1976), and he had 10 siblings. The family lived in various Central New York towns until they moved to Holland, NY in 1926. The family's neighbor, painter Carl Lothar Bredemeier (American, 1892-1946) who maintained a summer home in Holland, struck up a friendship with the family. As a young eleven-year-old boy, David, along with one of his sisters and three of his brothers, were invited by Bredemeier to take art classes in painting and drawing out of his studio on Saturday mornings. At the time, Bredemeier had been working for an advertising firm and by 1931, he had opened the Carl Bredemeier Gallery & Picture Frame Shop located at 140 Delaware Avenue in Buffalo, NY. The friendship the Pratt family had with Bredemeier as well as the rudimentary art lessons the children took, fortunately led to later employment opportunities for David and many of his siblings during the Great Depression, in order to help support the family during that time period.

In 1932, David attended Holland Central School when it was the first centralized district in New York State and by the age of sixteen, it was necessary for him to accept Bredemeier's generous offer to work full-time at his gallery and frame shop to help the family financially during the Depression years. David worked for Bredemeier from 1934-48 (except 1941-1945 during his WWII service) as a restorer, wood carver, framer, mat cutter and mounter, as well as learned gold leaf application and the business of running a custom framing shop and gallery. David learned a lot about art and the art world by working at Bredemeier's Shop and he quickly became acquainted with many local painters such as, Edwin W. Dickinson (American, 1891-1978) and Charles E. Burchfield (American, 1893-1967).

In 1935, during the slow months of the summertime, Carl encouraged David to take art classes at the nearby Art Institute of Buffalo located then at Franklin and Genesee Streets in the city. With help from the Works Progress Administration (WPA) who provided funding for art instruction, David was given full funding to attend the Art Institute with no out-of-pocket expenses. David studied at the Institute from 1935-40 with several painters such as, William B. "Bill" Rowe (American, 1910-1955), Theresa Hinchey Grau (American, 1908-1997), painter and architect, Paul Hyde Harbach (American, 1893-1984) as well as sculptor, William Ernst Ehrich (Prussian-American, 1897-1960) among others. In 1938, after work and before his evening art classes, David would often walk around Buffalo sketching out scenes that he would later take to William Rowe's advanced painting class to finish in either oils or watercolor. After art classes let out in the evenings, David would either catch rides or hitchhike back home to Holland and commute back to Buffalo the next morning for work. David's formative years at the Art Institute led to lifelong professional associations with some of the most-accomplished local artists, painters and sculptors in the Western New York region as well as formed many lifelong friendships along the way. In 1939, David entered six paintings in his first exhibit at the "Sixth Annual Exhibition by Artists of Western New York", held at the Albright Art Gallery (now the Albright Knox Art Gallery) where he won First Prize for 'Best Landscape in Oil' titled "Byways". By 1940, he had his first solo show at The Twentieth Century Club of Buffalo and had more paintings accepted at the annual Western New York exhibit at the Albright Art Gallery that same year. 

During WWII, David enlisted in the 27th Division of the New York Army National Guard on January 21, 1941 in Buffalo, NY and served from 1941-1945. He was first stationed in Alabama and soon transferred to California where he was assigned to the 106th Field Artillery Division. Right before his deployment, David had finished a painting which he'd left to dry on the easel at the Art Institute, and later that spring William Rowe on David's behalf, entered it into the 1941 New York State Fair in Syracuse, NY where David won the First Prize Purchase Award ($250) in oils. While in California, he was able to complete a half dozen paintings before his unit was transferred to Hawaii after the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. David attended motor school while in Honolulu and the only time he could find to paint was in the evenings during 'Blackout Hours' in the dimly-lit latrine of his barracks. He produced about a dozen small paintings from 1942 which illustrated his ability to transcend the stress and rigors of having to prepare for battle, and were very precious to him. While working in the field artillery division, David drove an ammunition truck and later became a truck mechanic. In 1943, David was temporarily assigned to the Fort Ord Army post in California near Monterey Bay, where he was able to marry his girlfriend from back home, fellow artist and gradeschool teacher, Joan Averill (née Bancroft) Pratt (American, 1920-1998) on August 14, 1943. The couple resided on the base until 1944 when David's artillery unit shipped out to the South Pacific Theater of Operations where he served near Papua New Guinea in the Solomon Islands and fought in the Battle of Luzon on January 9, 1945 in the Philippine Islands. David served in Luzon for several months as a Technical Sergeant in the servicing and operation of artillery spotter planes and during his time in the South Pacific, few if any, paintings were produced. After the war, David returned to the United States and was discharged from the Army in October, 1945.

Grateful to be on U.S. soil and having survived the war, David returned to Colden, NY where his wife Joan resided with her mother and sister, and promptly went back to work at the Bredemeier Gallery & Picture Frame Shop as well as resumed exhibiting his work in solo and local group exhibitions and teaching part-time at the Art Institute. The couple eventually had four children to include, David F. Pratt, Jr., Sarah A. Pratt-Tobin, Susan C. Pratt-Rudnicky, and Michael B. Pratt, three of whom studied art and wnet on to become artists themselves in their own right and exhibit their work. In 1948, David left Bredemeier's Shop to teach full-time at the Art Institute where he taught creative painting from 1947-1952, and also served as Director of the Art Institute from 1949-52. In 1950, the Board of Directors at the Art Institute asked David to facilitate the hiring of Charles E. Burchfield to their faculty, which Burchfield accepted and who taught there from 1950-1952. While at the Institute, Burchfield and David often went on painting excursions where they painted local landscapes and soon developed a friendship and camaraderie about art theory. By 1952, the Art Institute had run into financial troubles because the funding from the Veterans Administration benefits, which paid for many students' tuitions, was running out. At that same time, David had to resign in order to find a full-time job in order to support his family of six. The Art Institute died a slow death and managed to remain open until 1956 when it finally had to close its doors.

David first worked as machinist at Austin Dies, Inc. in Cowlesville, NY from 1952-1954, then briefly as a tool and die maker for the Cazenovia Precision Co. located in East Aurora, NY from 1954-1955. He later made a career in the construction industry working initially as a carpenter for Union Concrete Construction Co., West Seneca, NY from 1955-1964 (with his twin brother John and younger brother Marcus). Though he had limited time to devote to painting during this time period, David was still able to generate some paintings while also teaching adult education painting classes in Colden, NY, Ellicottville, NY, and Boston, NY in his spare time from 1960-1963. Due to economic recessions which resulted in construction layoffs from 1962-1964, David was forced to find additional work at the Bethlehem Steel Company in Lackawanna, NY, where he worked on the 14-inch mill of a steel rolling line that formed structural steel shapes. Afterward, he found a permanent position as a carpenter's foreman, framing walls for concrete forms, for the Frank L. Ciminelli Construction Company in Buffalo, NY where he worked from 1964 until his retirement in 1982. 

David continued to paint, exhibit and win awards for his artwork over the course of his long career as well as more actively after retiring from the Ciminelli Construction Company in 1982, which allowed him to paint full-time. David was a Charter Member and on the Advisory Committee of The Patteran Society, Buffalo, NY, the Albright Art Center, Buffalo, NY, the Burchfield-Penney Art Center, Buffalo, NY, the Big Orbit Gallery, Buffalo, NY and was a member of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters & Joiners of America (1957-1997). He painted throughout the Western New York Area and the United States to include Pennsylvania, Vermont, Maine and Hawaii during his wartime service and his artwork can be found in many museum, public and private collections to include, the Burchfield-Penney Art Center, Buffalo, NY, Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, OH, and David Anderson Art, Buffalo, NY. From January 18-March 8, 1992 the Burchfield Art Center at Buffalo State College (now the Burchfield Penney Art Center) hosted a major solo retrospective show for David titled, “A Retrospective Exhibition 1939-1991”, which featured 51 landscape watercolor paintings and drawings. The exhibit was supported by a major grant from David's former employer's son Louis P. Ciminelli, as well as from the City of Buffalo and Erie County and friends of the artist.

With his construction and carpentry background, David began building the family home in the early 1960's located on Center Street in Colden, NY. He completed the home in February, 1963 and resided there for the remainder of his life, which is still in the family today. Every summer, David and the family would vacation in New England, especially in Maine where they would often sketch and paint together. Joan, his wife of more than 50 years, passed away in 1998 and is buried in Holland Cemetery, Holland NY. After Joan's passing, David carried on and continued to actively paint and exhibit his work in solo, group and family shows, as well as even mowing his lawn up until a few months before his passing at his Colden home on November 21, 2010 at the age of 92. Services were held on November 24, at the Kenneth Howe Funeral Home in East Aurora, NY and David was also buried in Holland Cemetery, Holland, NY alongside his wife.


Chronology:

1918- Born January 11, to printer, William Walter Pratt (1862-1949) and Edith Genevieve (née Chesbro) Pratt (1886-1976), and had 10 siblings, Ithaca, NY.

Circa 1929- At the age of eleven, David, along with his older sister Esther and his three brothers, Bill, John and Marcus began taking Saturday morning art classes in drawing and painting at the studio of neighbor friend and artist, Carl Lothar Bredemeier (American, (American, 1892-1946).

1932- David attended Holland Central School when it was the first centralized district in New York State.

1934-48- David worked for the Carl Bredemeier Gallery & Picture Frame Shop, 140 Delaware Avenue, Buffalo, NY (except 1941-1945 during his WWII service) as a restorer, wood carver, framer, mat cutter and mounter, as well as learned gold leaf application and the business of running a custom framing shop and gallery.

1935-40- Studied at the Art Institute of Buffalo, NY, with several painters such as, William B. "Bill" Rowe (American, 1910-1955), Theresa Hinchey Grau (American, 1908-1997), painter and architect, Paul Hyde Harbach (American, 1893-1984) as well as sculptor, William Ernst Ehrich (Prussian-American, 1897-1960) among others.

1939-1940- Exhibited, group shows, (Prize $25 1939, Best Landscape in Oil; Prize, 1940; Evans Memorial Prize $100 in Watercolor, 1953), Western New York Exhibitions, Albright Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY.

1940- First one-person exhibition, Twentieth Century Club, Buffalo, NY. November 2-?, Exhibited, group show, "Collectors' Exhibition by Members & Friends of the Patteran Society of Buffalo", Pratt watercolor shown "Village Hall", Albright Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY.

1941- Exhibited, group show, "State Wide Exhibition" Syracuse, NY. June, exhibited, group show, painting selected from the State Wide Exhibition Syracuse shown at the Grand Central Galleries, NYC. Exhibited, group show (Prize in oils, Purchase Award of $250), New York State Fair, Syracuse, NY.

1941-45- Served in the 27th Division of the New York U.S. Army National Guard during World War II (enlisted January 21, 1941, Buffalo, NY), where he was first stationed in Alabama, then was assigned to the 106th Field Artillery Division and transferred to California, and then stationed in Hawaii after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, where he attended motor school and drove an ammunition truck, later became a truck mechanic, but was able to do some paintings during that time (1942). Was later stationed in the South Pacific near Papua New Guinea in the Solomon Islands in 1944, and fought in the Battle of Luzon in the Philippine Islands on January 9, 1945, where he achieved the rank of Technical Sergeant while in the servicing and operation of artillery spotter planes, few if any paintings were produced during this time period.

1943- August 14, while temporarily stationed at Fort Ord Army post in California near Monterey Bay, David married his girlfriend from back home, fellow artist and gradeschool teacher, Joan Averill (née Bancroft) Pratt (American, 1920-1998) and the couple had four children to include, David F. Pratt, Jr., Sarah A. Pratt-Tobin, Susan C. Pratt-Rudnicky, and Michael B. Pratt.

1944- November 4-?, exhibited, group show, "11th Anniversary of the Patteran Society", Pratt watercolor "Frisco" shown, Room of Local Art, Albright Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY. "December 30-?, exhibited, group show, "Annual Exhibition of the Patteran Society of Buffalo", Pratt watercolors shown "Frisco" and "Houses", Room of Local Art, Albright Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY.

1945- October, after the war David was discharged from the Army and returned to Colden, NY where his wife Joan lived with her mother and sister, and went back to work at the Bredemeier Gallery & Picture Frame Shop. November 16-December 7, exhibited, group show, "Annual Exhibition of the Patteran Society of Buffalo", watercolor shown "Los Banos House" done in May, 1945 on the Luzon in the Philippines about 30 miles below Manilla showing the cheracteristics of a Filipiono house, held at Denton, Cottier & Daniels Store, Buffalo, NY.

1945-1955- Exhibited, group shows (Prize 1951, Watercolor), Western New York Exhibitions, Albright Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY.

1946- Exhibited, solo show, Art Institute of Buffalo, NY. June 29-July 24, exhibited, group show, "Servicemen's Exhibition", Sponsored by the Patteran Society of Buffalo, watercolors of smalltown scenes by Pratt shown, Held in the Room of Local Art, Albright Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY. October 13-November 5, exhibited, group show, "3rd Invitational Show", over 100 paintings from members of the Patteran Society shown, Riverside Art Museum, NYC.

1947- Exhibited, solo show, Riverside Museum, New York City. November, exhibited, two-person show, "Henry Gorski and David Pratt", Garret Club of Buffalo, NY. November 5-23, exhibited, group show, "Annual Exhibition of the Patteran Society of Buffalo", urban hillside scene shown "Pennsylvania", Albright Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY.

1947-1952- Taught creative painting at the Art Institute of Buffalo, Buffalo, NY.

1948- July, exhibited, group show, "Annual Exhibition of the Patteran Society of Buffalo", Pratt watercolor shown "Houses", Albright Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY. November 6-?, exhibited, group show, "Annual Exhibition of the Patteran Society of Buffalo", Albright Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY. Solo exhibition at the Art Institute of Buffalo, NY. Exhibited, group show, Art Institute of Chicago, IL.

1949- March 9-April 3, exhibited, group show, "15th Annual Exhibition by Western New York Artists", Albright Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY. April 3-?, exhibited, group show, "Modern Art by Patteran Members", Pratt landscape shown, Junior League clubrooms, Buffalo, NY.

1949-52- Served as Director at the Art Institute of Buffalo, Buffalo, NY.

1950- June 14-July 5, exhibited, group show, "Annual Exhibition of the Patteran Society of Buffalo", Pratt cityscape shown, Albright Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY. Exhibited, group show (First Prize in Watercolor), State-wide Exhibition, Cortland, NY. October 11, exhibited, group show, "Annual Exhibition of the Patteran Society", Pratt painting "Warm Wind" shown, Albright Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY.

1950-51- Assisted guest instructor Charles Burchfield at the Art Institute of Buffalo. Exhibited, group show (Award), Cortland County Fair, Cortland, NY.

1951- February 4-25, exhibited, group show, "Artists of Upstate New York", Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute, Utica, NY. Attended painting seminar led by Burchfield at the University at Buffalo, Buffalo, NY. April 11-May 6, exhibited, group show, "Spring Patteran Society Exhibition", two Pratt watercolors shown "Tree" & "Stilted Snow", Albright Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY. Exhibited, group show (First Prize in Watercolor), Western New York exhibition, Albright Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY.

1952- October 12-November 2, exhibited, group show, "Annual Exhibition of the Patteran Society of Buffalo", Room of Local Art, Albright Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY.

1952-1954- Worked as a machinist at Austin Dies, Inc., Cowlesville, NY.

1953-1982- Was the chairman for the Town of Colden, NY Democratic Party.

1954- May 13-30, exhibited, group show, "Spring Show of the Patteran Society of Buffalo", Pratt watercolor creek scene shown, Albright Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY. Exhibited, group show (Prize, Watercolor Purchase Award), Butler Institute of American Art National Exhibition, Youngstown, OH.

1954-1955- Worked as a tool and die maker for the Cazenovia Precision Co. located in East Aurora, NY.

March 1955-1964- Worked as a carpenter for Union Concrete Construction Co., West Seneca, NY along with his twin brother John and younger brother Marcus. 

1956- April 8-May 8, exhibited, group show, "Spring Exhibition of the Independent Artists of Western New York", painting "House in the City", Sisti Galleries, Buffalo, NY.

1957-1997- Member of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters & Joiners of America.

1960-1963- David taught adult education painting classes in Colden, NY, Ellicottville, NY, and Boston, NY in his spare time from.

Circa early 1960's-February 1963- David built the family home located on Center Street in Colden, NY which he resided in for the remainder of his life, and which is still in the family today.

1962- March, exhibited, group show, Pratt painting was one of seven artist works shown at the Annual WNY Show shown at the Capitol Corridors in Albany, NY during its 185th Assembly session, sponsored by the Assemblyman, William Sadler of Hamburg, NY.

1962-1964- Due to economic recessions which resulted in construction layoffs, David was forced to find additional work at the Bethlehem Steel Company in Lackawanna, NY, where he worked on the 14-inch mill of a steel rolling line forming structural steel shapes.

1964-82- Worked in the construction industry as a carpenter's foreman for the Frank L. Ciminelli Construction Company, Buffalo, NY.

1967- September 29-October 20, exhibited, group show, "Exhibition  by the Patteran Society", Pratt showed two paintings with one titled "Enchanted Hillside", Upton Hall, Buffalo State College, Buffalo, NY. 

1981- Solo exhibition at the Artist’s Gallery, Buffalo, NY.

1982- Retired from the Ciminelli Construction Co., Buffalo, NY.

1990- Two-Person exhibition with Mary Ann Dean, Barbara Schuller Gallery & A.R.T., Buffalo, NY.

1991- Exhibited, Anderson Gallery, Buffalo, NY.

1992- January 18-March 8, exhibited, solo show, “A Retrospective Exhibition 1939-1991”, 51 landscape watercolor paintings and drawings shown, which was supported by a major grant from his former employer's son, Louis P. Ciminelli, the City of Buffalo and Erie County as well as friends of the artist, Burchfield Art Center, Buffalo State College, Buffalo, NY.

1993- Exhibited, solo show, at the Archipelago Art Gallery located on Cape Cod, Wellfleet, MA. Exhibited, solo show, David Anderson Gallery, 1 Martha Jackson Place, Buffalo, NY.

1993-1997- Worked as a consultant on the Advisory Board at the Burchfield-Penney Art Center, for the recreation of the Charles E. Burchfield studio, Buffalo, NY.

1996- Nov. 28-Dec. 18, exhibited, group show, "Bygone Buffalo: Paintings and Drawings by Early and Mid-20th Century Regionalists", Pratt's painting of an untitled 'East Aurora Landscape' was shown, Fanette Goldman/Carolyn Greenfield Art Gallery, Daemen College, 4380 Main St., Amherst, NY. Exhibited, solo show, David Findlay, Jr. Gallery, New York City. Exhibited, group show, David Anderson Gallery, 1 Martha Jackson Place, Buffalo, NY.

1998- September 20, David's wife Joan died in Buffalo and is buried in Holland Cemetery, Holland, NY.

1999- May 7-31, exhibited, “David Pratt: A Portfolio”, 80 watercolors and sketchbook drawings shown, Norberg’s Art Gallery, East Aurora, NY.

2003- Exhibited, four-person show, "Urban/Rural Morphology", along with his two daughters and son, Gallery 164, 164 Allen Street, Buffalo, NY.

2004- Exhibited, “Wet & Fresh: A Survey of Current Watercolor in Western New York”, Burchfield-Penney Art Center, Buffalo, NY. Exhibited, Richmond Memorial Library Gallery, Batavia, NY, and the Watercolor Synergy GoArt Gallery, Batavia, NY.

2005- September 22-October 22, exhibited, Four-Person Show, David Pratt and Daughters Sarah Tobin, Susan Rudnicky and son Michael Pratt, Norberg’s Art Gallery, East Aurora, NY.

2006- Exhibited, “A Life in the Arts” series, Burchfield-Penney Art Center, Buffalo, NY.

2007- Exhibited, “The Vision of Watercolor”, exhibition of watercolors by the Pratt family (David Pratt, Michael Pratt, Sarah Tobin and Susan Rudnicky), the Burchfield Nature & Art Center Gallery, West Seneca, NY.

December 15-March 2, 2008- Exhibited, group show, "The Artists Among Us", Burchfield Penney Art Center, Buffalo, NY.

2010- May 22, participated in a panel discussion titled "Charles E. Burchfield Remembered" along with fellow artists Joe Orffeo, Wendy Warner and Burchfield's next door neighbor Jackie Albarella and others who knew and worked with Burchfield, Burchfield-Penney Art Center, Buffalo, NY. November 21, David passed away at his home at the age of 92 years old, Colden, NY and is buried in Holland Cemetery, Holland, NY.

2019- February 8 - June 30, exhibition, "David Pratt: Fantastic Landscapes", Twenty-four works from the Burchfield Penney Art Center and private collections, in the R. William Doolittle Gallery at the Burchfield Penney Art Center, Buffalo, NY.   


Exhibited Also: Carl Bredemeier Gallery & Picture Frame Shop, Buffalo, NY; Other Patteran Society shows, Buffalo, NY; The Art Institute of Chicago, IL; Annually exhibited in Cortland, NY; among other local and regional exhibitions, and other State Fair Shows.

Museums/Public Collections: Burchfield-Penney Art Center, Buffalo, NY; Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, OH; David Anderson Art, Buffalo, NY.

Memberships/Associations: Charter Member of The Patteran Society, Buffalo, NY; Albright Art Center, Buffalo, NY; Burchfield-Penney Art Center, Buffalo, NY; Big Orbit Gallery. Buffalo, NY; and a member of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters & Joiners of America (1957-1997).

For possible additional information or images from this artist, please visit the AskArt link.

(Written & compiled chronologically by Mark Strong of Meibohm Fine Arts, Inc., East Aurora, NY, meibohmfinearts.com, sources: Our internal records; Biographical information from the artist, David Foster Pratt and his children; Portrait photographs by Mark Strong of Meibohm Fine Arts, Inc.)

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