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 Alfred Gabali  (1886 - 1963)

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Lived/Active: Massachusetts / Germany      Known for: sailing ship, seascape, landscape

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Ad Code: 4
Alfred Gabali
from Auction House Records.
The surge
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Cologne, Germany on May 4, 1886, Alfred Gabali left home at age 16 to become a seaman aboard the four masted bark Pamier, a German ship trading between Antwerp and England. He later sailed the Potose, a famed European ship, and there met a passenger, artist Schnars Alquist, who gave Alfred his first formal art training. After several subsequent voyages on English ships, he found himself stranded in San Francisco, still only 19 years old. Then begins a turbulent time when he was "shanghaied" aboard the whaler Bowhead, which included an attempted escape into icy Arctic waters, and a chance to participate in the great Alaskan gold rush.

After several trips including, one back to England, and then Australia, he returned to Germany and to studies in a seaman navigation school. While in the navigating school he also studied painting with his old friend, Schnars Alquist, in his studio. After gaining his mate's rating at the school, Mr. Gabali set sail on a three-masted schooner for Buenos Aires, then took a post on an English ship. He was in Finland when World War I broke out. He went north by land to escape the Russians and to get into Sweden where the German consul arranged for his transportation to his homeland.

His reception in Germany was not at all friendly. He was imprisoned immediately for not having proper papers. After several months behind bars, his case was cleared up and he was given command of a fishing boat doing patrol duty off the German coast. Gabali lost the ship in a storm and spent six hours in freezing water before being rescued. At the end of the war he once again took a job on a sailing ship, revisited Australia, and there was given a second mate's post on the Lord Erne, an English ship. After three years at this work, he married and settled down to a life as a professional artist in Hamburg, Germany in 1923.

His reputation as a seascape artist grew and success was assured until Adolf Hitler stepped into the German national scene. Artists were required to join the Nazi Party artists' organization, however, Gabali quietly declined the privilege. Because of seaman friends, Gabali agreed to paint a large canvas for a building used as the Nazi Party's waterfront meeting hall. It proved his undoing, for with his canvas on public display someone remembered he had not joined the Nazi's artists' group. A friend warned him that his free days in Germany were numbered, and leaving behind his possessions, he fled for Holland with his second wife. His first wife had died in 1935.

He started from the beginning once again in Holland. A stranger with no money, it took him two years to re-establish himself professionally and to find himself a group of devoted Dutch artist friends. These friends proved vital to Gabali and his wife for when the Germans invaded Holland during World War II, he was the object of an intense search. For those years between the fall of Holland and 1945 he was hidden "underground" by his friends. The Nazi Party, however, did not forget the name Gabali. One of his two sons, from his first marriage, was imprisoned in a concentration camp where he subsequently died.

In 1949, Gabali and his wife came to the United States to begin a new life. Their possessions were few, some treasured paintings and $500,. He started his career once again, in New York City. When Cape Cod art dealers took interest in his work, he vested the Cape and fell in love with it immediately. Gabali received his Social Security card in 1953 and became a U.S. citizen in 1955, the summer he came to the Cape to set up his studio in West Dennis, Massachusetts.

Gabali called his West Dennis studio the 'Grand Cove Art Studio'. He was a multiple year winner of Cape Cod Art Assoc. Galleries' show in Hyannis. Always a seaman, he had a painting of the infamous whaling ship Bowhead stuck in the ice hanging in his studio as of 1956. He died in 1963.

Submitted by Michael R. Perez, 10/2003


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