Herbert Aach, German (1923 - 1985)

Herb Aach (1923–1985) was an American painter and writer. Aach's painting style is known for its intense and well placed pigmentation, which stemmed from his deep interest in color theory and color relationships. This interest in color theory and philosophy would lead him to write one of the most notable translations of Goethe's Color Theory.

He was interested in all phases of color, phenomenology, perception, and fluorescence. He taught at the Pratt Institute (1947-51, 1965-68) the Brooklyn Museum, the Skowhegan School of Painting & Sculpture (1969-70), and was an assistant professor at Queens College from 1966.

Herb Aach was born in Cologne, Germany in 1923. It was in Germany where Aach would be exposed to fine art, studying under German expressionist painter Ludwig Meidner. Nazi persecution caused his family to flee, and in 1938 he arrived in New York City. In 1942 he enlisted in the United States Army and a year later he became a U.S. citizen. After serving during World War II, in Kassel, Germany, he returned to New York in 1946 where he studied under John Ferren and Rufino Tamayo at the Brooklyn Museum Art School. In 1948 he moved, with his new wife, to Mexico City where he continued his fine art studies at Escuela de Pintura y Escultura.
Upon returning from Mexico, Aach would practice painting in what was described as "relative isolation," between 1954-1963 in Hazleton, Pennsylvania. He would eventually move back to New York City in 1963 and began teaching at Queens College in 1965, where he would continue to teach for the rest of his life.

At Queens he taught studio art and color theory and became a favorite of students, gaining tribute in the 1968 school yearbook and voted twice as "Teacher of the Year". He would serve as chairman of the arts department from 1976-1979. He also taught at the Pratt Institute from 1966-1969. In the 1970s Aach visited East Germany to participate in the International Research and Exchanges Board outreach program to broaden cultural exchanges between the West. While in East Germany he studied at the Goethe archives in Weimar and became interested in rose windows. Back in New York, he worked with city officials to paint city bridges bright colors, such as the Madison Avenue Bridge which was painted lavender. He became president of the Artists Technical Research Institute in 1975.[4] In 1979 he was diagnosed with cancer and due to illness he became unable to paint, taking up drawing as his main format.

He died October 14, 1985 of cancer at the Memorial Sloan–Kettering Cancer Center.

As translator of Goethe's color theory, Aach can be associated with painter Robert Delaunay as well as with Alfred Jensen. His paintings and works on paper largely consist of variations on different shape and color combinations.

Louis Finkelstein described Aach's work as being heavily "located in cultural tradition" in relation to his influences, those he influenced, and the skills and styles of Irish manuscripts, textiles, Chinese and Colombian art. In 1974 art critic Noel Frackman declared Aach a pioneer.

Select Exhibitions

Mint Museum, 1987, Charlotte, North Carolina
Bronx Museum of the Arts, 1977, New York, New York
Albright-Knox Art Gallery, 1975, Buffalo, New York
Drew University, 1971, Madison, New Jersey
Pennsylvania State University, 1962, State College, Pennsylvania
Everhart Museum, 1959, Scranton, Pennsylvania
Whitney Museum of American Art, 1952; 1956, New York, New York[2]


Select Collections

Albright-Knox Art Gallery
Corcoran Gallery of Art
Metropolitan Museum of Art
State Museum of Pennsylvania

Artist's Gallery


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