Horst Trave Biography

Horst Trave




Painter Horst Trave was born in Germany on June 22, 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--ardently antifascist--was drafted into the Nazi army and, at his father's encouragement, he fled to Sweden where he studied at the Swedish Royal Academy. He made his way to the United States in 1941 where, three years later, he was drafted into the U.S. Army sent back to his homeland to fight in World War II. He would be one of the first GIs to enter Berlin after the fall of Hitler.

In 1945, once the war had ended, 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. Like many of them, Trave was eager to immerse himself in the malleable, explorative genre following the hardships of wartime. He cofounded the 12-member Metart Galleries in 1949, the Bay Area's first "Beat" gallery, and would exhibit regularly at North Beach's famous Dilexi Gallery, known for helping to establish the West Coast as a destination for collectors of contemporary, non-conformist art.

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, he took a job as a high school art teacher; in the summers, he worked in construction, building houses throughout the Bay Area.

Trave and his wife Cecilia moved north to Healdsburg 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. He died in 2012 at the age of 92. His work continues to be featured in exhibitions dedicated to the San Francisco School, including the 2019 "Dilexi Galleries: Disparate Ontologies" at The Landing in Los Angeles.

You can find more information on the life of Horst Trave at https://poba.org/poba_artists/horst-trave/