Karl Zerbe

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Karl Zerbe
Born (1903-09-16)September 16, 1903
Berlin, Germany
Died November 24, 1972(1972-11-24) (aged 69)
Tallahassee, Florida
Nationality American
Known for Expressionist painter
Movement Expressionism

Karl Zerbe[1] (September 16, 1903 – November 24, 1972) was a German-born American painter.

The works of Karl Zerbe are significant because they record "the response of a distinguished artist of basically European sensibility to the physical and cultural scene of the New World".[2]


Karl Zerbe 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, Germany 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.[3] In 1932 his oil painting titled: ‘’Herbstgarten’’ (autumnal garden), of 1929, was acquired by the National-Galerie, Berlin; in 1937, the painting was destroyed by the Nazis as "Degenerate art." From 1937- 1955 Karl Zerbe was the head of the Department of Painting, School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.[4] In 1939 Karl Zerbe became a U.S. citizen and the same year for the first time he used encaustic. He died in Tallahassee, Florida.

He was grouped together with the Boston painters Jack Levine and Hyman Bloom as a key member of the Boston Expressionist school of painting,[5] and through his teaching influenced a generation of painters,[6][7] including, among others, David Aronson, Bernard Chaet, Reed Kay, Arthur Polonsky, Jack Kramer, Barbara Swan, and Lois Tarlow.[8]

Solo exhibitions[edit]

Work in public collections[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Karl Zerbe
  2. ^ Karl Zerbe by H.W. Janson, American Federation of Arts, New York
  3. ^ Elke Lauterbach: Sieben Münchner Maler: Eine Ausstellungsgemeinschaft in der Zeit von 1931-1937 - Inhaltsverzeichnis und Einleitung [1]
  4. ^ Goodhue, Laura (2005). "Creative Expression: An Imminent Clash as Experienced by Three Artists". eScholarship@BC. Boston College. pp. 47–48. 
  5. ^ Waxing Poetic: Encaustic Art in America during the Twentieth Century,Karl Zerbe
  6. ^ McQuaid, Cate (27 December 2011). "Boston Expressionists get their due". The Boston Globe. Another key player was Karl Zerbe...Zerbe taught a generation of artists at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts. 
  7. ^ Chaet, Bernard (1980). "The Boston Expressionist School: A Painter's Recollections of the Forties". Archives of American Art Journal (The Smithsonian Institution) 20 (1): 29. In 1963, James Johnson Sweeney, speaking on 'Art Education in the United States,' cited two great European-born artists as the most important influences on American painting of the preceding twenty-five years—Hans Hofmann and Karl Zerbe. 
  8. ^ Bookbinder, Judith (2005). Boston Modern: Figurative Expressionism as Alternative Modernism. Durham, NH: University of New Hampshire Press. p. 5. ISBN 9781584654889. 


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