Ernest Berke (American 1921-2010)
A sculptor and painter of western subjects and well known both in the Southwest and East Coast, Ernest Berke was born in Harlem, New York City in 1921 to a Romanian mother who designed clothes and a Russian father, who was a sheet metal worker. At six years of age, his father, who recognized his talent, encouraged him to pursue art. While working as an advertising illustrator for Sears & Roebuck for a number of years, Ernest became fascinated with the growing West, especially cowboys and Indians.
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 also show his works there.
When the New York Times reviewed his work, it was met with great interest, and he terminated his job to devote himself to his painting. His devotion to the West covers over four decades, completing more that 2500 paintings and nearly 80 sculptures, five of which are life-size. He has portrayed the North American Indian with considerable accuracy and sensitivity, having lived with the Northern Shoshone Indian tribe in Blackfoot, Idaho.
He is the only Western artist to have been accepted to appear in the Kennedy Galleries in New York, and has been featured in the American Artist, Sothebys, and Southwest Art. He has had studios in Long Island and Santa Fe, New Mexico, and has written and illustrated two books on the American frontier and on Indians, both commissioned by Doubleday.
Berke spent his summers in Scottsdale, Arizona, where he erected a 12-foot by 18-foot bronze sculpture titled The Buffalo Hunt. His winters were usually spent in New York City.