Karl Zerbe

Zerbe at work

State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory


Karl Zerbe
By Kathaleen Boche


An enigmatic expressionist, Karl Zerbe is the most widely-known artist affiliated with the LeMoyne Center for the Visual Arts. Probably best known as one of the key Boston Expressionists during the 1930s and 1940s, Zerbe made Tallahassee, Florida, his home for the last seventeen years of his life. Born in Berlin in 1903, Zerbe and his family lived in Paris and Frankfurt during his formative years. In 1920, Zerbe briefly studied chemistry in Friedberg, then turned to art. He moved to Munich to study painting at the Debschitz School with Joseph Ebertz and Karl Casper from 1921-1923. In 1922, Gurlitt Gallery in Berlin recognized Zerbe with a one-man exhibit—he was only 19 years old. Awarded a grant from the City of Munich in 1923, Zerbe was able to travel extensively in Italy for two years, exploring the culture and the art scene. While his early work reveals the influences of German Expressionism, he came into contact with the Neo-Objectivism (Neue Sachlichwkeit) in the late 1920s. A testament to his skill and talent, several national galleries exhibited his work; the National Gallery in Berlin purchased his “Herbstgarten” painting in 1932.


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