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Natick - Local Town Pages

An Artist’s Third Act

Natick artist Natalia Broude

By Sean Sullivan

In the recent film “Mr. Turner,” the celebrated 19th century painter of that name shuffles into and out of the rarified world of fine art. The watercolorist’s works are rendered, judged, celebrated and sold, as the artist navigates the politics and pomp of that segment of society.
Yet it’s hinted that the advent and adoption of photography is on the horizon, a technology that would capture in a instant what took the painter for all of preceding human history weeks, months, years to create on canvas.
The coming of the camera looms and gathers like silent storm clouds in the background distance, the force of nature that Turner would often render in his roiling and wreck-inducing paintings of the ocean in all its fury.
Painted portraits and vistas predominated the art world for another solid century – think John Singer Sargent for a good example close to home. That perhaps owed to the one feature that photography couldn’t yet reliably reproduce, but that the painter was always awash in - color.
Yet even with a camera in every pocket nowadays, the ability to capture high quality images instantaneous, the appeal of painting for artists and aficionados has not notably faded.
Natick artist Natalia Broude’s recent exhibit at Broadmoor Wildlife Sanctuary is a vivid example; about a third of her paintings sold at the showing. The exhibit ran August and September, and featured between 40 and 50 of Broude’s pieces.                   
Broude, like Turner, is a watercolorist. Though departing from her distant creative predecessor, the Natick artist’s paintings lean toward the serene. She favors tranquil tableaus in lieu of Turner’s raging seas.  
The life that Broude relatively recently embarked upon is her third act - a quite creative one. And in the narrative of a long life, it’s a chapter that seems barely begun. Now in her early 80s, she took up painting in 2017, though the quality of Broude’s languid watercolor landscapes suggests a hand that’s been working in the medium for far longer.
“The history is very short, actually,” she said.
That’s partly true. More accurate to call it a calling deferred.
Born and raised in Russia, Broude recalls being drawn to art as a child, though that budding vocation wasn’t nurtured by those around her. Her parents encouraged her to pursue a career in the sciences instead, which could be said to be close cousin of creativity. She attended university and earned a Ph.D in molecular biology in Moscow.
“Every child is an artist,” Picasso is alleged to have said. “The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”
That wasn’t so much a problem for Broude as it was a matter of timing. She moved to the United States during the dissolution of the USSR in 1991, and to Natick in 1996. Teaching at Boston University for a quarter century, she retired in 2017.
It was then that Broude picked up the paint brushes and artistic expression that she’d set aside all those years ago. Some dabble in this or that pursuit during their golden years. Broude dived into the world of watercolors, immersing herself in workshops by renowned artists of the art form, going so far as Spain to learn from the best.
“When I retired, I discovered a lot of sources I did not know about,” said Broude about her burgeoning talent and the avenues that seemed suddenly available to refine her technique. “The community of artists in our area is so rich and so friendly and so welcoming.”
The studying shows in Broude’s strokes. Tendrils of willow trees lolling pond-side in full flush of summer, the Boston Public Garden Footbridge standing a stalwart focal point of the serene scene.
Or a rustic wooden fence wandering along a waterway beneath a muted blue sky, kept company by a row of tall, golden-tipped grass.  
The bleed of Broude’s watercolors unifies the elements of her outdoor environments, banishing hard edges and boundaries - nature’s interconnectedness captured on canvas.     
“It was very, very pleasant and satisfying,” she said of her exhibit at Broadmoor. The nature sanctuary’s gallery was an effortless fit for the subject matter of Broude’s paintings. “It was a very big deal for me.”
Indeed. Fresh off the success of her summer exhibit, she withdrew her works from a library showing slated for early 2024. The ado of the event would be too much so soon after Broadmoor. A Cape Ann exhibit is a possibility for next autumn.
The artist instead will spend the next few seasons seated before her easel, burnishing her brushstrokes. Admirers of her work will have to bide their time.    
“So now, that is my major occupation,” said Broude. “No more exhibitions in sight.”