Henry Koerner

American, 1915–1991

Rose Arbor, 1947

Oil on masonite

28 x 35 inches

Koerner was born in Vienna and fled to the US in 1938. In 1943 he became an American citizen, was drafted into the army, and joined the Office of War Information. There he met Ben Shahn, whose style Koerner admired and who became a mentor. It was during this time that he made his first important paintings.

Koerner returned to Vienna in 1946, only to learn that his entire family had been killed in the Holocaust. He later explained that Rose Arbor was one of seven paintings executed after his return from Europe. It was, he said, based on “images that formed themselves through the juxtaposition of having lived in the ruins of Europe and coming back to America. … Vienna, Berlin (Harnackhouse tennis court), and Far Rockaway. …”

In 1947 Koerner had his first solo exhibition in Berlin and received immediate acclaim. His first solo American exhibition in 1948 also met with great success. At this exhibition Rose Arbor was exhibited alongside works from the Berlin show, and soon after the Museum of Modern Art acquired the painting for its collection, where it remained until 2008.