November 3, 1926
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA
96 Years Old
|Death of Date||November 6, 2011|
|Occupation||American abstract artist, Actor|
|Full Name||Frederick Joseph Berman|
|Known For||Painting, Assemblage, Collage, Photography|
|Education||Milwaukee State Teachers College|
|Spouses||Joy Gross (1949-1966)|
Fred Berman (Frederick Joseph Berman), (born November 3, 1926 – November 6, 2011), was a Jewish American abstract artist best known for his paintings depicting architectural landscapes.
In 1955, after establishing himself as an art instructor and regional talent, Fred Berman was keen on getting his work recognized by a larger audience. He was familiar with Katharine Kuh and knew she was curating a collection of American artists to showcase at the next Venice Biennale. After writing her a request to show his art, he loaded up his father’s car with his paintings and drove to the Art Institute of Chicago. They met at the loading docks of the museum to review his work. According to Berman, Kuh stated, “Double congratulations, for being so young and painting so well.”
Kuh selected White City #2 from Berman’s White City series paintings for the American Pavilion exhibition at the Biennale, titled American Artists Paint the City. It was, as Tom Lidtke (Retired Executive Director of MOWA) wrote, “a luminous and intentionally ambiguous urban scene that was as much atmospheric as it was architectural.” At 29, Berman was the youngest artist featured in the exhibition alongside the likes of Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning.
Fred Berman’s work would be exhibited in a number of acclaimed art galleries throughout his lifetime, including the Royal Academy of Arts, Whitney Museum of American Art and the Art Institute of Chicago. His paintings have been characterized as abstract with a focus on urban infrastructure and the effects of time and nature on city life. Berman is also known for his work in collage, wooden assemblages and photography. He earned the title Professor Emeritus from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee for his decades-long contribution to teaching and taught there until 1993. In 2010, he was honored with the Wisconsin Visual Art Lifetime Achievement Award from the Museum of Wisconsin Art.
Fred Berman was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1926 to father Ezra Berman, a Russian immigrant, and mother Frances. He was the youngest of four children. Due to a possible heart condition in his youth, he was told to avoid physical exertion and focused his energies on chess and art. Berman was an adept chess player and by 1943 he had won his fourth consecutive city-wide junior chess tournament.
After earning a bachelor’s degree from the Milwaukee State Teachers College and a master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Berman joined the faculty at the Layton School of Art, later considered one of the premier art schools in the United States.
Fred Berman had strong ties to the burgeoning abstract art scene in Wisconsin in the mid-20th century. As a student at the Milwaukee State Teachers College, he received praise from German-born regionalist artist Robert von Neumann and was influenced by Carl Holty‘s modernist paintings. He exhibited with contemporaries Arthur Thrall and Joseph Friebert, the latter of which was a major influence to some of Berman’s most recognized works in architectural abstraction. J. M. W. Turner, Pierre Bonnard, Édouard Manet and the Cubist movement have been cited as inspirations for his art, as well.
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