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Edward Biberman (1904 - 1986)



Fallen Comrades/Interlude, 1949, oil on masonite, signed lower left, 35 x 56 inches; Gallery Z label verso; exhibited at 1) the Sixty-Ninth Annual Oil, Tempera and Sculpture Exhibition of the San Francisco Art Association Annual Exhibition, 1950 (partial label verso); and 2) ”Resonating Images 1900-1950” William Rolland Gallery of Fine Art, California Lurtheran University, Thousand Oaks, CA, from October 27, 2012 to February, 2013; illustrated in i) Edward Biberman, The Best Untold: A Book of Paintings by Edward Biberman, The Blue Heron Press, New York (1953), unpaginated; and ii) (film) Kaufman, Jeffrey, Brush with Life: The Art of Being Edward Biberman, 2007, (DVD release 2010), 85 minutes, presented in its original frame


Price Upon Request


Fallen Comrades/Interlude is a large rare Social Realist work reflecting the labor and political struggles of the late 1940s. Biberman and his family were committed Progressives. Soon after World War II, at the outset of the “Red Scare” in Hollywood, Biberman’s brother, Herbert, was called before the House Un-American Activities Committee and interrogated about his and others’ involvement with the Communist Party. Refusing to respond on constitutional grounds, he was held in contempt and sentenced to six months of prison. Herbert was one of ten prominent directors and screenwriters (the “Hollywood Ten”) imprisoned and subsequently blacklisted by the film industry. His conviction had a dramatic impact on the entire Biberman clan. Herbert’s wife, Gale Sondergaard, who had been one of the leading ladies in Hollywood, was also blacklisted, and galleries and institutions became reluctant to show Edward’s work.


Edward Biberman was born in Philadelphia, the son of Ukrainian Jewish immigrants. His artistic career started at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts followed by three years of study in Paris, where he associated closely with Calder and Noguchi and exhibited at the Salon d'Automne, Grand Palais, in 1927 and the Salon des Independents in 1929. Upon his return to the United States, Biberman lived in New York City, where he showed at many of the city’s premier galleries and museums. His works were selected for several of the Museum of Modern Art’s early exhibitions of American artists, including 46 Painters and Sculptors Under the Age of 35 (1930) and Murals by American Painters and Photographers (1932). Hoping to escape the pressures of the New York art world, Biberman moved to Los Angeles in 1936 where he could be close to his family, including his film director brother, Herbert Biberman, and his sister-in-law, the Academy Award winning actress, Gale Sondergaard. Although he continued to paint and show his work professionally until his death, Biberman’s relocation to Southern California and his devotion to progressive politics no doubt slowed the recognition he deserved and has received since his death.


During the course of his long career, Biberman showed at the Salon d’Automne (Paris); Whitney Museum; Metropolitan Museum of Art, Corcoran Gallery, Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and dozens of other museums and galleries across the US and in Europe. Biberman completed three murals for public works projects, including his work Abbot Kinney and the Story of Venice for the Venice Post Office, which was installed for six months at LACMA in 2014. His works are in the permanent collections of more than a dozen museums, including the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, National Portrait Gallery (of the Smithsonian Institution), Butler Institute of American Art, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and LACMA. Several books are dedicated to Biberman’s art, as is a feature length documentary, Brush with Life: The Art of Being Edward Biberman (2007).


Biberman’s art has undergone a resurgence of popularity during the past fifteen years with four solo or focused exhibitions, Edward Biberman Revisited (2009), Edward Biberman (2011-12), Lost Horizons: Mural Dreams of Edward Biberman (2014) and Edward Biberman, Abbot Kinney and the Story of Venice (2014), and representation in a number of other exhibitions, such as To Make a World: George Ault and 1940s America at the Smithsonian Institution and other institutions (2011), Pacific Standard Time (2012), Contraption: Rediscovering California Jewish Artists (2018), Black American Portraits (2021) at LACMA, Alone Together: Encounters in American Realism (2022) at the Westmoreland Museum of American Art and Art for the People: WPA-Era Paintings from the Dijkstra Collection (2023 - 24) at the Crocker Art Museum, the Oceanside Museum of Art and the Huntington Library, Art Museum and Botanical Gardens.


Biberman’s brand of modernism can fairly be divided into four categories 1) precisionist urban scenes of New York and Southern California which celebrate the creations of man; 2) portraits which expose not only the historical context, but also the souls, of his subjects; 3) rural landscapes and still life paintings which portray the beauty of America and its flora; and 4) social realist works which explore the struggles, hopes and shortcomings of our society. Regardless of genre, Biberman had a unique sense of structure and color. His figures are at the same time specific and universal. Taken as a whole, Biberman’s body of work presents the viewer with a compelling and often daring vision of 20th century America and its art.


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