New Acquisition

Church Street, Charleston, 1944, by Karl Zerbe (American, 1903 – 1972), encaustic on canvas, museum purchase, 2009.008

Church Street, Charleston, 1944, by Karl Zerbe (American, 1903 – 1972), encaustic on canvas, museum purchase, 2009.008

The Gibbes recently acquired a work entitled Church Street, Charleston by Karl Zerbe (1903 – 1972). A German-born artist, Zerbe came to the United States in 1934 to escape Nazi rule. Prior to his arrival in the US, Zerbe was recognized as one of Germany’s most promising young artists. He settled in the Boston area, and in 1936 was named Head of the Painting Department at the Museum School of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, a position he maintained until 1953.  By the 1940s, Zerbe along with his contemporaries Jack Levine and Hyman Bloom achieved national recognition as leaders of the Boston Expressionists School. Zerbe frequently experimented with new painting processes and is credited with reviving the ancient technique of encaustic, a medium which became his mainstay during the 1940s.

Zerbe made his first sojourn to Charleston in 1940, undoubtedly influenced by his relationship with native Charleston artist, William Halsey. Halsey studied under Zerbe at the Museum School in Boston from 1937 to 1939 and credits Zerbe as one his most significant mentors. Painted in the figurative expressionist style, Zerbe’s depiction of Church Street is a unique interpretation of a commonly painted Charleston scene. This painting was first exhibited at the Gibbes in 1962 during a retrospective exhibition of Zerbe’s work organized and traveled by the American Federation of the Arts. Now a part of the Gibbes permanent collection, you can see this exciting new work on view in the Welcome Gallery.


Want to see more of the museum’s collection?  Click here to browse our online collections search.

Related Content

Collection Storage: From the Gallery Walls to the Back Room

As an intern at the Gibbes, one of the best parts of my job is getting an up-close view of what goes on behind the scenes at the museum. While…


Good Things Come in Small Packages

Even though they are the smallest pieces in the collection, designing a new gallery for the miniature collection has been a lot of work. Thanks to a generous grant from…


Sculpture under the Dome

When the Gibbes reopens on May 28, visitors will be welcomed to freshly renovated gallery spaces throughout the Museum. One of the most spectacular transformations is the newly named Campbell…


Curatorial Perspective: Preparing for the Reopening

While the Gibbes has been under renovation, I am often asked, “What does the staff do while the museum is closed?” Behind the scenes, we are working harder than ever…