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Serge Hollerbach

1923-2021

Serge Hollerbach was born in Russia. He studied at a high school run by the Academy of Fine Arts in Leningrad until the Nazis invaded the city in 1941. Along with many other Russians, he was sent to Germany to work as a laborer in the factories. While living in a refugee camp after the war, he studied at the Munich Academy of Fine Arts, where he was introduced to an expressionistic mode of working.

He immigrated to the United States in 1949 and eventually settled on the Upper West Side of New York City, where he resided until his death in 2021. Not only his home, the Upper West Side served as his inspiration and the source of many of his paintings. Among other subjects, he worked to convey the inner solitude of city dwellers as they went about their daily business. He called his approach to painting “truth of life.”

He taught for many years at the National Academy of Design and received numerous awards for his casein and watercolor paintings. His work can be found in the collections, among others, of the Yale University Art Gallery, the St. Paul Gallery of Art, the Georgia Museum of Art (Athens), the Mead Art Museum (Amherst College), and several institutions in Russia.

Hollerbach began to lose his sight in 1994. Informed and guided by Oskar Kokoschka’s notion of a “third eye,” he adapted his working methods and began to rely on what he called “inner vision” when he painted, though he continued his lifelong commitment to sketching the city and its people. Profiled in The New York Times in the summer 2018 in connection with an art exhibition organized by the Vision & Art Project at the University of Cincinnati, Hollerbach was quoted as saying in reference to his post-macular work: “To be playful, you have to have nothing to lose. Nothing to lose is a new kind of freedom.”

Serge Hollerbach in his studio on the Upper West Side, Manhattan, in 2014.
Photo taken from the film, “Serge Hollerbach: A Russian Painter in New York,” produced by AMDF.
Works by This Artist
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