The Art World Remembers Tony Bennett: Singer, Artist (1926-2023)

“… always stay with quality, never compromise.” ~Tony Bennett (PBS interview)

American singer and artist Tony Bennett passed away on July 21, 2023.

“Thank you to all the fans, friends, and colleagues of Tony’s who celebrated his life and humanity and shared their love of him and his musical legacy. From his first performances as a singing waiter in Queens to his last performances in 2021 at Radio City Music Hall, Tony delighted in performing the songs he loved and making people happy. And as sad as today has been for all of us we can find joy in Tony’s legacy forever.” – Susan Benedetto (Tony’s wife) and Danny Bennett (Tony’s son)

Tony Bennett painting en plein air with Eric Rhoads

“My phone rang, and on the other end, I heard, ‘Eric it’s Tony Bennett, I’m landing soon, meet me at the four seasons in an hour, bring your painting gear,'” shared Eric Rhoads, PleinAir Publisher. “I dropped everything, canceled meetings, grabbed my Open Box M, and we painted and talked for two full days together. His stories were incredible. Then we attended his concert and went backstage. (The second time we went backstage to a concert, I brought my friend T. Allen Lawson. We also got to meet the Beach Boys who happened to be there.)

“Tony was passionate about his art and his music. His work ethic was incredible; he would go to the Florence Academy for a month every year and for his music life did endless rehearsals to get things perfect. His stage presence was perfect though he was in his late 80s when we were together.

“He told me about many of his celebrity friends who he taught to paint because they needed something to do when on the road. He said he taught Lady Gaga to paint and that he painted with then Prince Charles.

“Tony told me that his son invented the idea of him doing duet recordings with other artists. His record label didn’t want to do it, but it got him on MTV and refreshed his career.

“It was an honor to get acquainted with and to paint with him and learn about his painting life.”

More Memories

“Some years ago, I was awkwardly juggling an armload of painting supplies at Lee’s Artshop on 57th. The man in front of me insisted I take his place in line and helped me get all my treasure on the checkout counter. We struck up a brief, friendly conversation on the joys and frustrations of painting. Of course, I knew it was music icon Tony Bennett, but some of us knew he was also the gifted painter Tony Bennett – a very kind and generous man. He will be missed. Thinking of Robert Wade, his dear friend and painting partner.” ~ Thomas W. Schaller

Tony Bennett artist
Photograph: Eddie Sanderson/Getty Images

“Many people are called legends. Few embodied the word like Tony Bennett. His voice. His presence. His style. He was timely and timeless. He had an otherworldly talent of coaxing the sublime out of the music he sang. But he was also a consummate craftsman and tireless worker. He earned his longevity and we all benefited from it. He will be missed.” ~ Dan Rather

What My Heart Has Seen book by Tony Bennett art

Bennett also authored a book titled What My Heart Has Seen: “…What My Heart Has Seen presents his best work in nearly every medium, from pencil sketches on hotel stationery to his beloved watercolors and oils, pairing them with photographs from his albums – and also features his personal recollections of the people and places he has captured on canvas. Tony Bennett’s formal art training culminated in a degree from the High School for Industrial Art (New York City). What My Heart Has Seen will reveal to Tony Bennett fans a whole new depth to their matinee idol. His vision and sensitivity as expressed in his artwork is as rich and detailed, warm and unforgettable as the best of his music!” – Midwest Book Review

“Tony Bennett was one of the most important interpreters of American popular song during the mid to late 20th century. He championed songwriters who might otherwise have remained unknown to many millions of music fans. His was a unique voice that made the transition from the era of Jazz into the age of Pop. I will always be grateful for his outstanding contribution to the art of contemporary music. He was a joy to work with. His energy and enthusiasm for the material he was performing was infectious. He was also one of the nicest human beings I’ve ever known.” ~ Billy Joel

Read his full obituary at

Related Article > PleinAir Podcast 153: Raleigh Kinney on Painting with Watercolor, and More
Listen as Raleigh Kinney shares the following:
• What it was like to meet fellow artist Tony Bennett (yes, the Tony Bennett)
• Convincing his wife to move to Arizona as part of his journey to become a full-time painter, and his advice for those thinking about taking the big leap
• A lucky break he experienced while doing a mall show, which opened a door for his career
• The event that had ladies removing their heels so they could get to the paintings more quickly
• The importance of saying “yes!” and more


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