Raised in Brooklyn, Bernard Karfiol was a precocious student, attending Pratt Institute and the National Academy of Design before the age of fifteen. In 1902 he spent a year studying in Paris with Jean-Paul Laurens (1883-1921) at the Académie Julian and in 1904 participated in the Salon d’Automne. He then traveled throughout Europe and England. In Paris he associated with Gertrude and Leo Stein and through his studio partner, SAMUEL HALPERT, met Henri Rousseau (1844-1910).
Back in the United States, Karfiol struggled to support himself by teaching until dealer/collector Hamilton Easter Field saw his work in the Armory Show in 1913. Field purchased his paintings and organized Karfiol’s first large showing in 1917. In 1914 Karfiol began to summer at Ogunquit, Maine, at the invitation of Field. The New England landscape and coast were to appear in many of his figure studies and landscapes. Karfiol is best known, however, for his figure paintings of children and his nudes.
Karfiol exhibited widely, and during the 1920s three solo exhibitions of his work were organized at the progressive Brummer Gallery in New York; thereafter he was represented by Edith Gregor Halpert’s Downtown Gallery. His travels to Cuba, Jamaica, and Mexico in the 1930s provided him with new subject matter. During the mid-1930s he attempted unsuccessfully to paint larger, more complex figure compositions.
Private collection, Bernard Karfiol Papers (on microfilm, Archiv. Am. Art) § Jean Paul Slusser, Bernard Karfiol, American Artists Series (New York: Whitney Museum of American Art, 1931), with biographical note, bibliography § Index 20th Cent. Artists 1 (March 1934): 94-96; 1 (September 1934): II; 2 (September 1935): IV; 3 (August-September 1936): VI; reprint, pp. 130-32, 134, 136, 138 § Harry Salpeter, "Pure Painter: Bernard Karfiol," Esquire 7 (March 1937): 76-77, 137 § Bernard Karfiol (New York: American Artists Group, 1945), with essay by the artist, list of awards and museums, bibliography.