Horst Trave Biography

Horst Trave




Horst B. Trave (born Horst Julius Berthold Meyer), painter, sculptor, and teacher, was born in Reinfeld, Germany on 22 June 1918. His interest in art began in elementary school when he used pen and ink to sketch the landscapes of his home near Neuburg, as well as cartoons and illustrations for school projects. As Hitler rose to power in the late 1930s, Trave who was ardently anti-Nazi and antifascist, was drafted into the Nazi army. In 1937, with the encouragement of his father, Trave fled to Sweden where he studied at the Swedish Royal Academy. He made his way to the United States in 1941 and registered for the draft as Horst Berthold Meyer.

He enlisted in the U.S. Army on 29 May 1943 under the name Horst B Trave and he became a naturalized citizen of the United States on 26 February 1944. Trave was sent back to his homeland to fight in World War II. He worked in U.S. Intelligence in Germany and was one of the first GIs to enter Berlin after the fall of Hitler.

In 1945, Trave enrolled in San Francisco's California School of Fine Arts (now the San Francisco Art Institute) to pursue oil painting. His focus on Abstract Expressionism put him in line with Richard Diebenkorn, Sam Francis, Elmer Bischoff, Frank Lobdell, and other leading Abstract Expressionists who created the style known as the San Francisco School. Trave co-founded the twelve-member Metart Galleries in 1949, the Bay Area's first "Beat" gallery. He regularly exhibited at the North Beach Dilexi Gallery, known for helping to establish the West Coast as a destination for collectors of contemporary, non-conformist art. Trave won second prize in painting at the First Annual Exhibition in Painting and Sculpture at the Richmond Art Center in October 1951.

Despite being at the epicenter of one of art history's major revolutions, Trave remained mostly out of the limelight, preferring to paint for himself. He exhibited regularly but did not rely on sales to support himself and his family, believing that art and finances should be kept separate. After he received his MFA in 1951 from the California School of Fine Arts, he became a high school art teacher and, in the summers, he worked in construction, building houses throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.

Trave with his wife Cecilia moved north to Healdsburg, California in 1979. There he continued to paint and exhibit his work for over three decades, establishing himself as one of Sonoma County's foremost Abstract Expressionists. A retrospective of his work was mounted in 1997 at the California Museum of Art in Santa Rosa, California.

Horst B. Trave died on 28 August 2012 at the age of ninety-two.

The work of Horst B. Trave continues to be featured in exhibitions whose focus is on the San Francisco Bay Area Abstract Expressionism movement, including the 2019 exhibition Dilexi Gallery: Disparate Ontologies curated by Laura Whitcomb and held at The Landing in Los Angeles, California.