Len Aronson, loving husband and father, a widely respected fine art appraiser, dealer, and connoisseur, and an ever-generous mentor to so many, passed away on September 17, 2016, in Nashville, Tennessee, at the age of 89.
Mr. Aronson lived an extraordinarily rich and fulfilling life; his indomitable optimism, unusual courage, and wholehearted embrace of life was a constant source of inspiration to those who knew and loved him.
Len will be missed beyond words, by his wife, Carol, of 36 years; his two daughters, Amy Aronson Vaughan and Laura Aronson Swords; his stepson, James Bohannon; his grandchildren, Rachael Anne Starks and David Austin Vaughan; and his many other loving family members, friends, and colleagues.
Leonard David Aronson grew up in New Orleans, with short but important stays in Chicago and New York, as his family moved from time to time, especially during the 1930’s. After completing his service in the U.S. Army during World War II, Mr. Aronson attended Tulane University and Southern Methodist University, around the time his family relocated to Dallas, Texas. An unusually gifted athlete, Len was also a talented artist with a special affinity for sculpture and a singular mastery of color, moving to New York in 1948 to study art at the Brooklyn Museum School of Art, also taking advantage of affiliated programs at the New School for Social Research. Though he had to live on only a few dollars a week, Len often recalled these years as some of the richest of his life. It was the advent of Abstract Expressionism, and Len had the great pleasure of meeting, studying under, and conversing frequently with some of the great artists and art historians of the time, including Stuart Davis, Abraham Rattner, Max Beckman, Ralston Crawford, and Meyer Schapiro. Often, Len cut short these meetings to allow himself the solitary pleasure of sitting in the upper rafters of the old opera house to attend the Metropolitan Opera on a free student pass.
It is a testament to Mr. Aronson’s gift of introspection, and his humility, that he ultimately concluded that his art would never reach the aesthetic level of his mentors—so he happily found other ways to channel his many talents, which allowed him to remain in the arts—and thrive there—for his entire life. Len never retired—and never would have—as he continued making significant contributions until his final days; quite reasonably, he never saw any reason to give up what he loved so much.
When Len’s father, Louis Aronson’s health faltered in the early 1950’s, he returned to Dallas to help him manage his affairs, and to help his mother, Beulah, and his siblings care for his father. Ultimately, this led Len to a fruitful career in textile design and manufacturing, even as he continued developing his art connoisseurship. Len, with his family and closest colleagues, developed a thriving international business in the arts, owning art galleries in Atlanta—where Len lived from the mid-1950’s to 1980—and conducting business throughout the world. As his career was attaining new heights, Len became seriously ill around 1970, eventually moving to Durham, North Carolina to receive treatment at Duke University; there, he met his lovely wife, Carolyn. Mr. Aronson would struggle, and largely overcome, numerous serious physical ailments throughout the rest of his life—and yet, he was always a vibrant, active, and forward-looking and -thinking individual.
In 1990, Len and Carol moved to Nashville, where Len again developed a highly respected appraisal practice as an Accredited Senior Appraiser with the American Society of Appraisers, while also consulting with arts organizations and institutions, and curators and collectors—many of whom became close friends and trusted colleagues. Len also served for a time as Executive Director of the Association for Visual Artists, in Chattanooga. Aronson Fine Art continues to thrive through Len’s dear nephew, mentee, and colleague, Louis A. Siegel, of Nashville.
Mr. Aronson was an avid advocate for the disabled, including founding and for several years serving on the Board of Directors for Cumberland Community Options, a Middle-Tennessee-based supportive living environment for people with developmental disabilities.
Even with his many lasting contributions to the arts and to his community, Mr. Aronson’s greatest legacy is the magnificent impact he had, and will continue to have, on those with whom he had direct, personal contact. Above all else, Len cared for and respected the dignity of people, and this came across vividly in the way he related to others and to the world around him. Len was surely a true Southern gentleman—but with a world-wise outlook. Moreover, he was both passionate and immensely compassionate, whether it came to family or friends, politics, sports, community, or the arts. Len not only had an endless love of learning, but he routinely and uncompromisingly gave of himself in all matters, large and small.
Len Aronson is survived by his remarkable and loving wife, Carol; and her incredible son, James Bohannon; Len’s devoted and beautiful daughters, Amy and Laura; his loving son-in-law, Gregg Swords; his bright and amazing grandchildren, Rachael Ann and David Austin; his loving brother-in-law, Doug Wilkinson; his many loving nieces and nephews, great-nieces and -nephews; and great-great nieces and –nephews—the two eldest, Jasmine Marie and Nicholas William, with whom he had an especially close bond—and his many close and caring friends.
Len was preceded in death by his late and much beloved brother and two sisters, Ellis Aronson, Helen Posner, and Jane Siegel. Len will be greatly missed, but his love, his abundant gifts to us all, and his enduring spirit will be with us always.