Saturday, June 26, 2010

Karl Zerbe

 Karl Zerbe, Self-Portrait, 1949

Karl Zerbe (1903-1972) was born in Berlin, Germany. The family lived in Paris, France from 1904-1914, where his father was an executive in an electrical supply concern. In 1914 they moved to Frankfurt where they lived until 1920. Karl Zerbe studied chemistry in 1920 at the Technische Hochschule, Friedberg. From 1921-1923 he lived in Munich, where he studied painting at the Debschitz School, mainly under Josef Eberz. From 1924-1926 Karl Zerbe worked and traveled in Italy on a fellowship from the City of Munich. 

 Karl Zerbe, Parrot and Decanter, 1934

In 1932 his oil painting titled: ‘"Herbstgarten’" (autumnal garden), of 1929, was acquired by the National-Galerie (the painting was destroyed by the Nazis as "degenerative art" in 1937). Recognized as one of Germany's major new artists, Zerbe's first exhibitions in Munich and Berlin attracted immediate attention and he was represented in some of the finest museums in the country. 

 Karl Zerbe, Armory, 1943

In 1934, at the age of 31, Karl Zerbe came to America fleeing Nazi persecution (he had a jewish background). While Zerbe's paintings were being removed and destroyed as Kulturbolschewismus ("degenerate art") from German museums, the Busch-Reisinger Museum at Harvard University gave him his first one-man show in America. From 1937- 1955 Karl Zerbe was the head of the Department of Painting at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. In 1939 Karl Zerbe became a U.S. citizen. He died 1972 in Tallahassee, Florida. Today, Karl Zerbe's paintings are exhibited in many U.S. museums, but he is almost forgotten in Germany.

Karl Zerbe, Melancholia (triptych), 1946


  1. I love the works of Karl Zerbe see images on my flicker:

  2. My aunt, abstract expressionist Esther Geller, was one of Zerbe's students at the museum school. She is 91 and still painting her beautiful encaustics, though on a smaller scale than previously.

  3. He was professor of art at the Florida State University, Tallahassee from 1955 until his death.