Artist Andrea Halbfinger 81, raised her family in Freeport while pursuing...

Artist Andrea Halbfinger 81, raised her family in Freeport while pursuing a career as an art critic and teacher.  

Andrea Halbfinger, a multitalented artist and one-time art critic, died March 1 at her home in Manhattan from pancreatic cancer and Parkinson’s disease. She was 81.

Halbfinger, who raised her family in Freeport, spent more than 60 years sketching, drawing and painting vividly colored works, from abstract expressionism to the spectacular sunsets of Lido Beach.

She would paint in an overheated laundry room, next to a furnace and her toddler son, who would produce his own work on child-sized canvasses. She eventually moved to a shared studio on Manhattan’s Lower East Side.

"Like many artists, she was not so good at marketing and selling her creations," said her son, David Halbfinger, 53, a politics editor at The New York Times. " … But she was a success in her own way. She made the art that she wanted to make. She did it for years. She made beautiful work that holds up. It's on the walls of all of her children and grandchildren and friends and many other people who never met her."

Born Andrea Sue Kanner in Brooklyn, she was the first child of S. Lee Kanner, a longtime editor at The New York Times, and Elsie Kanner, a retired Massapequa schoolteacher. The couple had two other children: Steven Kanner, 77, an internist in Massachusetts, and Ellen Kanner, 71, a clinical psychologist in Huntington and Manhattan.

The family moved to Massapequa Park when Andrea Kanner was 13 and she attended Massapequa High School, learning French and playing piano and cello.

"She was a very good big sister," Ellen Kanner said. "She would read Shakespeare sonnets to me when I was a little girl … trying to teach me about the cultural life she was so interested in."

Halbfinger received a bachelor's degree from Bennington College in Vermont and, after her father urged her to pursue a career more practical than art, a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.

At Columbia, she met M. William Halbfinger, a third-year law student, with whom she would soon marry. The couple moved to Washington, D.C., after the birth of their daughter, Caren, 58, now the public affairs director for the Westchester County Department of Health.

Professional opportunity would knock in 1964 when the art critic for The Washington Post went out on maternity leave and Halbfinger, just 23, was hired to fill in. In her brief tenure, Halbfinger would deliver witty and biting weekly reviews, spotlighting Native American art exhibits and dismissing the future of pop art.

But Halbfinger's sharp criticism of an exhibit curated by the Corcoran Gallery's "women's committee" apparently struck a nerve. The committee’s members included friends of Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham and, according to a story Halbfinger told her family, she soon found herself unemployed.

The family would move back to New York, settling in Freeport in 1971. Halbfinger began a part-time career teaching art to children in Bellmore and Massapequa and adults in Oceanside.

"She loved raising a family on Long Island," David Halbfinger said. "She was the type of person who, in a quiet kind of way, got everything she could out of the opportunities around her and took advantage of everything on Long Island, especially Jones Beach."

Through winding career paths, Andrea Halbfinger continued painting, writing on her website advertising her art that it represented "an ordering of chaos. Life is so rich and full. I have always been involved in the world around me, in literature, people, politics, religion, family, friends, history, other cultures. In my painting, I have tapped into my unconscious to draw from these stimuli."

Halbfinger would become the primary caregiver for her husband as he developed early onset Alzheimer's, before his death in 1999.

Five years later, she remarried to Lawrence Wasserman of Lido Beach after they met on a dating site. But her second chance at love proved to be short-lived. Wasserman died in 2007 of prostate cancer.

In her later years, Halbfinger revived her journalism career as a reporter with the Long Island Herald, took up tennis and bridge, explored Manhattan cultural institutions, and became more active in Jewish activities.

"We traveled together to Russia, did a Viking trip along the Danube [River] and had season tickets to New York Philharmonic" said Joan Dean, a friend of 60 years. "She was such an interesting woman."

Along with her children, Halbfinger is survived by two siblings and six grandchildren.

A funeral service was held March 3 in Manhattan followed by burial at New Montefiore Cemetery in West Babylon.

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