Open main menu

David Jon Kassan (born February 25, 1977[1] in Little Rock, Arkansas) is an internationally recognized contemporary American painter best known for his life-size representational paintings, which combine figurative subjects with abstract backgrounds or “tromp l’oeil texture studies,”[2] Of this dual representation strategy Kassan notes, “my effort to constantly learn to document reality with a naturalistic, representational painting technique allows for pieces to be inherent contradictions; paintings that are both real and abstract.”[3] Kassan's work is best classified as Social Documentary Painting, due to the importance and relevance of the subjects he chooses to represent.

David Kassan
Born(1977-02-25)February 25, 1977
Known forRealism

In 2014, Kassan turned his attention to painting and documenting Survivors of the Holocaust, with the development of the EDUT project )-"edut" being Hebrew for "living witnesses" as a way of connecting with his grandfather's traumatic history of escaping ethnic cleansing on the border of Romania and Ukraine to come to America in 1917. The EDUT project's mission is to meet with as many living Survivors to the Shoah as possible and to document them in filmed video portraits and in paintings and drawings.

While many survivors have already told their stories on video (as in the Visual History Archive developed by the USC Shoah Foundation) or in memoirs, Kassan believes painting offers viewers a different kind of connection to the survivors, one that puts a personal face to the sometimes abstract idea of the Holocaust.

In 2017, David Kassan partnered with the USC Shoah Foundation and the USC Fisher Museum of Art to develop the EDUT project into a Resilience Exhibition which will open at the Fisher Museum in the fall of 2019 in Los Angeles.

Kassan is a much sought after drawing and painting instructor because of his steadfast commitment to the age old discipline of working from life and creating compelling expressions of the human condition. He has given painting/drawing seminars and lectures at various institutions, and universities around the world. In 2013, he founded the Kassan Foundation in hopes of giving grants directly to underprivileged talent in both the visual and musical arts.

Kassan works can be seen in many public and private collections worldwide. He is represented by Gallery Henoch (Chelsea), New York, NY and The Maxwell Alexander Gallery in Los Angeles, CA.

Kassan currently lives in Albuquerque. NM.


David Kassan received his B.F.A. in 1999 from the College of Visual and Performing Arts at Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY. He continued his studies at The National Academy, and the Art Students League of New York, both in Manhattan

His Newington-Cropsey Foundation Travel Grant allowed him to study and sketch in Italy in the summer of 2003. There he conducted sketch studies of various masterworks, which are source of inspiration to his own work.[4] These experiences were recorded in a self-published book "Lentemente Italia".


David Jon Kassan’s work has been described as "Raw, poignant and profoundly honest. He seeks to capture the essence of those he paints, imbuing them with their own voice. More than simply replicating his subjects Kassan seeks to understand them. We are moved by Kassan’s depictions, captivated by powerfully expressive hands, pensive faces, and flesh that appears warm to touch. Ultimately, there is a truth and timelessness to Kassan’s work because it is so deeply human. His subjects are distilled in an exact moment in time, patiently contemplating their present. We share in this present-moment appreciation, this slowing down of time, and see life for what it is." [1]


  • "David Jon Kassan - Recent Paintings", Louise and Bernard Palitz Gallery, Lubin House, New York, NY - 2005
  • "Introspections" - Gallery Henoch (Chelsea), New York, NY March 12 - April 4, 2009
  • "Process" - Manifest Gallery, Cincinnati, OH - March 2012
  • "Solitudes" - Gallery Henoch (Chelsea), New York, NY September 13 - Oct 6, 2012

He was one of three shortlisted for the 2014 BP Portrait Award at the National Portrait Gallery, London, with his painting "Letter to my Mom".


Kassan has studied human anatomy extensively, reflecting a scientific understanding of the muscular structures beneath the skin. Kassan has written extensively on the subject and its relation to conveying emotion, including publishing an “Artist’s Guide to Portrait Anatomicae” [2] and several articles on the topic for magazines such as Artist Daily.[3] and a quarterly column on anatomy for Drawing Magazine [4]

Kassan’s technical mastery of oil paint combined with adept draftsmanship enables him to fluently represent what he sees. This is evident in the stunning flesh tones Kassan achieves. Transparent layers of oil paint are built up, forming an intricate lattice of veins, blood and skin. Through this light enters and is reflected back.

His technique of creating layered application of pigments has been hailed by critics as creating a highly realistic impression of skin and flesh.[5]

In addition to work in traditional drawing and painting media, Kassan has also explored the use of digital media, including the use of the iPad as a portable painting tablet, used for studies of masterworks in museums around the world. His YouTube demonstration "Finger Painting on the Apple iPad from the live model" now viewable at [5] originally achieved over 1 million views within 6 months of posting. This also resulted in considerable news-media coverage in the printed press and on television.


Over the past six years, David has taught, demonstrated and lectured at a wide variety of art schools and universities around the world as well as in the United States: Scottsdale Artists School Scottsdale Artists School; Art Students League New York; National Academy Design School of Fine Art, New York; Royal Hibernian Academy, Ireland; La Figurative Academy, LA; Korpus School, LA; JSS Italy Abroad program, Italy; Ta Hatahana, Tel Aviv; Whidbey Island, Seattle, WA; Gage Academy, Seattle, WA; Private Workshop, Byron Bay. Australia; Art Academy, Adelaide Australia; University of Alaska, AK; Arizona State University, Phoenix, AZ; Mesa Community College, Mesa, AZ; Finger Lakes Community College, Rochester, NY; Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, NY; Southern Atelier, Sarasota, FL; Savannah College of Art and Design. GA; Studio Argenta, Little Rock, AK; Myndlistaskólinn, The Reykjavík School of Visual Arts, Iceland; Bay Area Artists Atelier, SF, CA; 72nd Street Studio, Bayridge, Brooklyn; Salmagundi Club, NY; Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, NYC; The Teaching Studio, Brooklyn Oyster Bay.; Manifest Drawing Center, Cincinnati OH; Akron Artists Society, Akron, OH; Townsend Atelier, Chattanooga, TN; Faro Portugal; MNAC Romania; Centre College, Danville, KY; Syracuse University, NY

A DVD on his drawing technique in charcoal and chalk, and a second DVD on painting a portrait in oils, are available from his website, and he has posted demonstrations online at YouTube and ustream.

Documentary filmsEdit

David Kassan has produced and filmed two Instructional Documentary films in partnership with Movette Pictures (Painting a Life) and Studio Four Cinematography (Drawing Closer to Life)

  • Drawing Closer to Life (2010, Studio Four Cinematography). This 3 hour DVD documents a day in David Jon Kassan's Brooklyn studio as he develops a charcoal study of Henry Williams Oelkers. David vocalizes his complete thought process and approach as he develops this drawing. The essence of this DVD is developing an understanding of how to translate and interpret what we see into drawings that capture the subtle character, emotion and insights into the model's personality.
  • Painting a Life (2014, Movette Pictures, In this 7-hour, two disc, instructional documentary, David weaves together his philosophies on painting as well as how he paints technically. In "Painting A Life", we get to know the subject, Jaece Lutrec. intimately—her thoughts, feelings and her life as David paints her. This film illustrates not just the step-by-step process of how David paints, but also depicts his patient search to understand the subject. To encourage a full understanding of the process, David completely vocalizes his thoughts on how to use broken color to develop lifelike skintones and how to use color temperature, value, texture and brushstrokes to turn form. Also discussed is how to train your eye to see these subtle color shifts and transitions. Included is a full discussion of David’s materials (brushes, mediums, paints, etc.), how he prepares his painting surfaces, his studio setup and lighting, how he transfers the drawing to the painting surface, a brief introduction to his drawing process, and a field trip to Vasari Classic Oils Colors to discuss of all of the paints on David’s palette and their properties and history with Gail Spiegel, Vasari's color expert.


In 2013, Kassan founded the Kassan Foundation in hopes of giving grants directly to underprivileged talent in both the visual and musical performance arts.

The aim of the Kassan Foundation is to nurture talent by offering financial support to underprivileged Visual Artists and Musicians. Each year the foundation offers two grants; one to a promising representational artist and one to a promising musician in order to boost their career and accelerate their artistic growth. The grant would assist with potential production and material costs, travel and further education.


  1. ^ "CV Statement". David Kassan Visual Artist. June 25, 2014. Retrieved January 7, 2017.
  2. ^ "David Kassan," American Arts Quarterly, Volume 26, number 2. 2007.
  3. ^ Kassan, David. "Artist Statement,"
  4. ^ Carpenter, Sandra. "Losing Yourself in a Drawing," Artist's Sketchbook, December 2004.
  5. ^ Philips, Carol, "David Kassan: Reluctantly Classic," Empty Magazine, November 2007

External linksEdit