Gerrie Gutmann

1921-1969

Gerry von Pribosic Gutmann was an American Surrealist artist, who depicted a world of the macabre.  Her paintings show ornately dressed female-creatures, who are tormented by nature, animals, and memories.  Alienation permeates her art, a gothic place filled with eerie anthropomorphic creatures that would surround and taunt people.

While mostly self-taught Gutmann did study at an art school in Pasadena in 1939 with the post-surrealist painter Lorser Feitelson, who introduced her to her first husband the artist Victor von Pribosic. The couple moved to Oregon where she further developed her highly detailed, almost pre-Raphaelite style of painting.  They divorced in 1945, and the custody battle over their son inspired recurring imagery of childhood, toys, and personal memories in beautiful self-portrait drawings as well as in images of stolen or deceased children.

“The Theft” was one such painting, an autobiographical account of the loss of her son in which she plays the role of a medieval Madonna who holds a small casket close to her. Male surrealist artists envisioned the Virgin Mary as an icon of disruption within a patriarchal society.  By this role casting, Gutmann portrayed herself as both victim and saint.

Gutmann moved to Northern California and in 1949 married the photographer John Gutmann, serving as his model in many of his photographs.  During the 1950s many West Coast artists turned to abstraction, but Gutmann never did.  She rejected this style and isolated herself from many painters, choosing to paint in styles from early Flemish art to Surrealism.

Her first solo exhibition was held in 1948 and traveled to multiple locations, including New York and Portland. Gutmann was given solo shows at the de Young Museum in San Francisco in 1949, 1952, and 1964.  Never recovering from the loss of her son, Gutmann committed suicide in 1969.

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