Monday, August 27, 2012

Gustav Rehberger: "He speaks softly but he paints with a big stick"

A few years ago I wrote extensively about Gustav Rehberger's career.

Since that time I've kept in touch with Pamela Demme, Rehberger's widow, who last week sent me some interesting new (to me) examples of her late husband's work.


Before we look at those pieces however, here are a few Rehberger illustrations I still hadn't scanned from some mid-'50s issues of Everywoman magazine I own.


Fortuitously, one of those issues included a capsule biography and photo of the artist...




I love how Rehberger is described as "painting with a big stick." How true! I have never found Rehberger's work to be pretty - it's appeal for me is in its energetic, unvarnished honesty.


Rehberger's ink line drawings have an appeal of their own - reminiscent of Ben Stahl's work.


And that finally brings us to the art Pamela recently brought to my attention:

“NEW YORK by Rehberger” - 1948 - is a show at the New York Transit Museum of 22 original subway cards (11x14) done in pen and ink in 1948 by Gustav Rehberger.


He illustrated 22 places of interest around New York: The New Public Library, The Bronx Children’s Zoo, The George Washington Bridge, The Washington Arch, Square Dancing in Manhattan, the statue of Balto, Greeley Square, etc.




Pamela tells me the artworks will be on display until 12/2/2012. There should be more information on the exhibit at the Transit Museum's website, but I wasn't able to locate a specific reference to it. I've contacted the curator and will append this post if I hear anything back.


  1. Really great post, wasn't familiar with his work, will seek more.

  2. Anonymous1:25 PM

    My father was a personal friend of Gustav. When I was a very young boy, maybe 5 yrs old, my father and I visited Gustav in his Carnegie Hall studio. Gustav was very nice and talkative with me as I remember it. He asked me what my favorite thing in the world was. Being five, of course it was a super hero, The Incredible Hulk. He asked me what in the world is that, surely he was not watching much TV. He asked to describe it as he stood behind something much taller than I. I explained how Bruce Banner's muscles grow so big they rip through his clothes until he has nothing but riped purple shorts on and messy hair. I did my impersonation of a muscular figure, not really knowing what he was doing. Then he turned to his easel around and said does he look like this? I remember being surprised and saying "yes, but he's green"! Lot's of laughter and then he filled in with some green accents.
    I'll never forget that day and always cherish this picture. It's amazing to think that he had no idea what the hulk even was and this was his result. I'll also remember a warm hearted man who paid such special attention to a child and shared his gift.
    My family has many of his dramatic paintings and drawings to this day.

  3. I moved to NYC in May 1981 and decided after a time to overcome my trepidation and sign up for life drawing classes at the Art Student's League of NY. I chose to register for Mr. Rehberger's class because his robust, energetic work was just my meat, my having been a fan of Frank Frazetta's work since adolescence.

    I started in Fall 1982 and continued with Rehberger for about six years--12 months of each year--until he had to take a leave of absence due to his first bout with cancer. I moved on to several other excellent instructors after that, and did not return to Rehberger's class when he returned from his leave, (mostly because my schedule had by then changed and his classes did not fit it, but also because I saw that it was good to move on). In Rehberger's class my drawing really developed. Unlike many of his students, I did not try to ape his style, but the vigor of his work always stimulated me and kept me working at improving my drawings. I will always regret that the book he said he was preparing never was completed, (or was never published if there was a completed manuscript).

    Bravo for the remembrance of this dynamic artist and character, (he WAS a character!).

  4. I was a drawing student in Gustav Rehberger's class in 1985, when attending the Art Student's League. He made quite an impression on me too. To this day, 30 years later, I remember a teacher who would inspire everyone with his enthusiasm and passion for gesture and beautiful form. He would say something like, 'Look at that back!' and go into an artistic revelry. He took a couple of other students and me to his Carnegie Hall studio, showed us drawers full of amazing drawings of horses and ballet dancers. I wished so much I could have bought one. I would have loved to take a painting class from him. However, I was a student from California, so that was my only class with Gustav Rehberger. He loomed large in my artistic odyssey in New York City.

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