Reder, Bernard

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REDER, BERNARD (1897–1963), U.S. painter, printmaker. Born in Czernowitz, Bukovina, Austria, a center of Hasidic culture before wwii, Reder studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague, after which he returned to his hometown to work as a carver of cemetery monuments while also pursuing stonecarving. In 1935, he returned to Prague, enjoying his first exhibition at the Manes Gallery. Reder moved to Paris in 1937, where he met the sculptor Aristide Maillol, even exhibiting at the prestigious Wildenstein Gallery in 1940. However, the Nazi occupation of France forced Reder to flee to Spain, passage to which Maillol secured for Reder and his wife. The Nazis destroyed the contents of Reder's studio. Sometime later, Reder traveled to Cuba, where he concentrated on woodcuts and drawings, such as the both haunting and whimsical woodcut The Complaining Ravens (1950). A recurring subject in Reder's art was that of musicians, such as the one depicted in the bronze sculpture The Trumpeter (1955). He settled in New York in 1943, where he enjoyed great success: he won a Guggenheim fellowship and exhibited at the Whitney Museum and the Philadelphia Museum of Art (1949). In 1954, Reder studied sculpture in Rome and Florence; two years later, he had a solo exhibition at Galleria d'arte Moderno l'Indiano. Reder attained American citizenship in 1948. The artist worked in both bronze and stone. For instance, the bronze sculpture The Conquerer, a work depicting a military figure astride a tiny horse balanced on a circular object, suggests to the viewer both the pompousness and precarious nature of leadership. As his career progressed, Reder moved from realism to a rhythmic abstraction, as expressed in the stone sculptures Centaur's Head and The Fantastic Bird. One of Reder's better-known sculptures is the bronze Aaron with Tabernacle (1959), now in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. This large-scale sculpture combines biblical history, Jewish folklore, and references to mysticism and magic in a magisterial figure which seems rooted and blossoming like a tree. Reder was a recipient of a Ford Foundation Grant in 1960, and a year later the Whitney Museum presented a solo exhibition of his work. In 1969, the State of Israel gave Denmark a sculpture entitled Wounded Woman. Made by Reder, it is sited behind the Museum of Jewish Resistance, as a symbol of gratitude for Denmark's efforts on behalf of persecuted Jews during wwii. Reder's prints and sculptures have a wide range of subject matter, including figures, both human and fantastic, and subjects with Jewish themes, often infused with what many critics refer to as a baroque, Rabelaisian spirit. He also worked as an illustrator, fashioning woodcuts for such publications as Yiddish Proverbs by Hanan J. Ayalti (1949). His work is in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, the Brooklyn Museum, the Hofstra Museum, the Jewish Museum, New York, the National Gallery of Art, and the Whitney Museum.


A. Kampf, Jewish Experience in the Art of the Twentieth Century (1984); C. Roth, Jewish Art: An Illustrated History, revised edition by Bezalel Narkiss (1971).

[Nancy Buchwald (2nd ed.)]