A sculptor and painter of western subjects, Ernest Berke was well known to collectors in both the Southwest and the East Coast. He was born in Harlem, New York City in 1921 to a Romanian clothing designer and a Russian sheet metal worker. His father, who recognized his son’s talent early on, encouraged him to pursue art.
After serving in the Army Air Corps during WW II, he worked in advertising, as a fashion artist for Sears Roebuck before pursuing his art on a full-time basis. A self-taught artist and anthropologist, Berke was a voracious reader. He met on a regular basis at a local New York City bookstore with a group who shared his interest in the West, and occasionally Berke would show his works there.
His remarkable ability as a researcher coupled with his compassion for Indian culture and his haunting scrutiny of the indignities that were part of frontier America, all contributed to his compelling narratives in both sculpture and canvas. Berke’s scholarly devotion to the West covered more than four decades, and he completed more than 2,500 paintings and nearly 80 sculptures, five of which are life-size.
His works are in the permanent collection of the Buffalo Bill Historical Center, Crazy Horse Memorial, Amon Carter Museum of the American Indian, Pearce Western Art Collection at Navarro College, Woolaroc Museum, Great Plains Art Museum, and Eiteljorg Museum of American Indian and Western Art. In addition, his work appears in 17 published books, two of which he published himself.
His work is a favorite among major western art collectors and institutions. American Artist magazine said: ” Never before has the Old West been depicted from such a sociological and psychological point of view, and by such a talented artist. Our cultural history will benefit from Berke’s document. Many believe it is Berke’s destiny to be ranked alongside Remington and Russell as an art master of our long faded American west.”
To all those who helped and brought joy to Ernest’s journey, we are eternally grateful…..To all those he helped and brought joy to we hope you will remember.
Ernest Berke passed on November 15th, 2010
Source: Ernest Berke
Throwing the Snow Snake
Artist: Ernest Berke (1921-2010)Description: Bronze (1971) | 13 ¾”h x 25”w; Edition #1 of 6
According to Native American oral tradition, the snow snake game is more than 500 years old. The game originated as a form of communication between villages and eventually evolved as a competitive sport actively played during long winters. Its name was derived from the serpent-like motion of the poles as they slid down the track.
Ernest Berke cleverly used a stone base to give the impression of a winter snow scene. The figure is caught mid-action and his far left placement generates a sense of forward momentum.
Artist: Ernest Berke (1921-2010) Date: 1955Description: Bronze (1955); 2nd Cast (1981) | Dimensions: 6”d x 15”h x17”w; Artist Proof Edition
Artist: Ernest Berke (1921-2010)Description: Bronze (1968)