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 Ray Henry de Berge  (1903 - 1995)

About: Ray Henry de Berge


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Lived/Active: Arizona/Illinois/Wisconsin      Known for: Southwest themes, geometric color studies

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Ad Code: 4
Ray Henry de Berge
Sedona 1949
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
Biography from Blue Coyote Gallery:

The following information was submitted by Gary Fillmore in April of 2006:

Ray Henry de Berge Sr. was born of German/French immigrant parents in Kenosha, Wisconsin in 1903.   Ray left his family home in his late teens after his father, a devout Christian with a major alcohol problem informed Ray that he would be placed into training to become a Catholic priest.  By this time Ray had already launched himself on a path of self-education and he decided to reject the priesthood.  A voracious reader, he frequented public libraries across the country which in turn gave him a passion for world travel, museums, and the arts.  He was also trained as a journeyman electrician, a trade which helped finance his travels.

Ray de Berge’s travels took him through west Texas where he met and married Lorraine May, a young woman from a poor farming family.  They eventually settled in Arizona in 1928 with their young family.   It was there that de Berge bought his first son a water coloring kit.  In the process of demonstrating its use, he discovered he had a passion for painting. 

At the outbreak of World War II de Berge owned an electrical contracting firm in Phoenix.  The construction boom in Army bases around Phoenix during this time enabled de Berge to make a fortune with his contracting firm.  He retired a multi-millionaire at the age of 36 and decided to dedicate the rest of his life to his painting.

In the late 1944, de Berge uprooted the family to study painting in the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts under muralist Louis Frederick Grell (1887-1960).  He painted in Illinois for half a dozen years and then returned to Arizona where he designed and built a huge studio/home in the then remote desert environment of the Papago Mountains where he lived until his death.  Intermittently, de Berge traveled extensively throughout Europe, the Near East, Asia, and Latin America. Influences of these trips are abundant throughout his works.

The de Berge works reveal a unique and evolving style that passed through a number of distinct periods including an impressionist early period revolving around Arizona themes and subjects. This is followed by a period of realism while in his later years he explored geometric color studies, castles, kachinas and in the final period, highly stylized works celebrating nature, birds, sex and women.

Ray de Berge lived most of his later life as a recluse.  He died in 1995 at the age of 92 from complications of a broken hip, allegedly incurred whilst in pursuit of a lady friend.  Ray de Berge left behind five children, two wives, several books of poetry and four novels.  He also left over a thousand oil paintings which were discovered scattered throughout his studio after his death. 



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