Gustav Rehberger papers, 1924-2004

A Finding Aid to the Gustav Rehberger Papers, 1924-2004 , in the Archives of American Art, by Justin Brancato

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Table of Contents:

Biographical Information

Gustav Rehberger (1910-1995) was an illustrator, designer, painter, educator, and performance artist in New York City.

The Rehberger family emigrated from Austria to Chicago in 1923. At age 14, Rehberger began studying at the Art Institute of Chicago on a scholarship that continued for three years. While still a teenager, he also was enrolled in The Art Instruction Schools, Minneapolis. After declining two college scholarships, he worked as a graphic designer and illustrator to help support his family during the Depression. Fom 1929-1942, he was Art Director at Reuben H. Donnelly Corporation in Chicago, publishers of telephone directories.

During World War II, the Wartime Committee of the Society of Typographic Artists commissioned Rehberger to paint two murals for the interior of Chicago's Union Station (1942). He moved to New York City in 1943 and soon enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Forces. While in the service, Rehberger was assigned to the Illustrations and Format Branch where he created visual training aids.

After the war, Rehberger's illustrations appeared in the national advertising campaigns of Celanese Chemicals, Philip Morris and Sheraton Hotels; were featured in major newspaper and magazines such as Chicago Daily Tribune, The New York Times, and Esquire; and in various Christian publications.

In order to focus on painting, in 1969 Rehberger ceased commercial work. From 1972-1993 he taught drawing, anatomy, and composition at the Art Students League of New York. He also became interested in performance art. Evolving out of his classroom drawing demonstrations, Rehberger's performances - the act of painting and drawing before a live audience - soon moved to formal performance spaces and often were accompanied by recorded music.

Throughout his career, Rehberger participated in numerous group shows and was the recipient of many awards and prizes. He also had a number of solo exhibitions, among them shows at the Society of Illustrators in New York, National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and National Gallery of Art in London.

Gustav Rehberger died in New York City on July 22, 1995.

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Overview of the Collection

Scope and Contents

The Gustav Rehberger papers measure 4.0 linear feet and date from 1924 to 2004. His career as an illustrator, painter, educator, and performance artist is documented by correspondence, scrapbooks, printed material, photographs, and sound and video recordings.

Arrangement and Series Description

The collection is arranged as 7 series:

Subjects and Names

This collection is indexed in the online catalog of the Archives of American Art under the following terms:


  • Educators--New York (State)--New York
  • Illustrators--New York (State)--New York
  • Painters--New York (State)--New York
  • Performance artists--New York (State)--New York

Types of Materials:

  • Photographs
  • Scrapbooks
  • Sound recordings
  • Video recordings


The Gustav Rehberger papers were donated to the Archives of American Art in 2004 by his widow, Pamela Demme.

How the Collection was Processed

This collection was processed to a minimal level and a finding aid prepared by Justin Brancato in 2009. Minimal processing included arrangement to the series and folder levels. Generally, items within folders were simply verified with folder titles, but not arranged further. Folders within boxes were not numbered. The collection was rehoused in archival containers and folders, but not all staples and clips were removed.

How to Use the Collection

Restrictions on Use

Use of original papers requires an appointment. Use of archival audiovisual recordings with no duplicate access copy requires advance notice.

Ownership & Literary Rights

The Gustav Rehberger papers are owned by the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Literary rights as possessed by the donor have been dedicated to public use for research, study, and scholarship. The collection is subject to all copyright laws.

How to Cite this Collection

Gustav Rehberger papers, 1924-2004. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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Detailed Description and Container Inventory

Series 1: Biographical Materials, circa 2003
(Box 1; 1 folder)

Rehberger's curriculum vitae and chronology were prepared and added by the family.

Box Folder
1 1 Curriculum Vitae and Chronology, circa 2003

Series 2: Correspondence, 1938-2003
(Box 1; 0.4 linear feet)

Correspondence is of a professional nature and is mainly with graphic designers and publishers.

Although the correspondence from "Book I" and "Book II" has been removed from the binders, original order has been retained. Additional corresponence is found in the scrapbooks (series 3).

Box Folder
1 2-4 Book I, 1938-2001, undated
(1 volume, removed from binder)
1 5-7 Book II, 1943-2003, undated
(1 volume, removed from binder)
1 8 Gustav Rehberger v. Reader's Digest Association, Inc., 1990-1994, undated

Series 3: Scrapbooks, 1924-2004
(Box 1; 0.6 linear feet)

Scrapbooks are composed mostly of items reproducing illustrations by Rehberger.

Although volumes were removed from their binders, the original order remains.

Box Folder
1 9-11 Scrapbook I, 1924-2004, undated
(1 volume, removed from binder)
1 12-15 Scrapbook II, 1975-2003, undated
(1 volume, removed from binder)
1 16 The Art Students League of New York, 1972-1996
(1 volume, removed from binder)
1 17 Gallery Exhibition Guest Books, 1964-1977
(1 volume, removed from binder)
1 18 Military, 1943-1945
(2 volumes removed from binders)
1 19-20 Movie Illustrations, 1953-1992
(1 volume, removed from binder)

Series 4: Printed Material, 1937-1972
(Boxes 2, 6; 0.6 linear feet)

Books, both illustrated by Rehberger, are: The Gospel Story of Jesus by Benjamin Bedenbaugh and Luther by Robert H. Fischer.

Box Folder
2 1 Everywoman's Magazine, 1955-1957, undated
2 2 Illustrations, Miscellaneous, 1937-1972, undated
2 3-4 Books, 1964-1966 (2 volumes)
2 5 Church Publications, 1964-1965
2 6 Reproductions of Miscellaneous Artwork (1980s), undated
6 Oversized Printed Material, 1936-1992
  • 27 Chicago Designers
  • Calendars
  • Esquire
  • Sheraton Hotels
  • World War II, Union Station, Chicago

Series 5: Artwork, 1927-1942
(Boxes 2, 6; 0.6 linear feet)

Of particular interest are maquette drawings of Rehberger's murals for Chicago's Union Station (1942).

Box Folder
2 7 Schoolwork Assignments, 1927-1928
2 8-11 Sketchbooks, undated
(9 volumes)
2 12-14 Index Cards of Sketches, undated
6 Oversized Artwork, Paintings, 1942

Series 6: Photographs, 1927-1995
(Boxes, 2-3, 6; 1.2 linear feet)

Photographs are of Rehberger, artwork, lectures, and performances.

Box Folder
2 Photographs
2 15 Rehberger (1920s-1990s), undated
2 16-17 Rehberger with Artwork (1950s-1990s), 1991-1994, undated
2 18 Art Students League Lectures, Art and Music Performance, 1972-1993
Box Folder
3 1-2 Illustrations, Miscellaneous (1949-1989), undated
3 3 Artwork and Classroom Demonstratoins (1960s-1993), undated
3 4-6 Artwork, Miscellaneous (1927-1992), undated
(oversized material housed in Box 6)
3 Transparencies
3 7-12 Illustrations (1943-1969) undated
(6 folders)
3 13-22 Artwork (1949-1993), undated
3 Slides
3 23 Artwork and Classroom Demonstrations (1972-1995), undated
3 24-25 Artwork, Miscellaneous (1960s-1991),

Series 7: Sound and Video Recordings, 1972-1995
(Boxes 4-5; 0.5 linear feet)

Five sound cassettes and 11 videocassettes record interviews with Rehberger, lectures, his memorial service, demonstrations and performances.

Box Folder
4 1 Interviews, Lectures, and Memorial Service, 1986-1995
(5 sound cassettes)
4 2 Pastel Society Demonstratons, Two Horses, 1990
(2 videocassettes: VHS)
4 3 Documentary Footage, 1972, 1990
(2 videocassettes: VHS)
4 4 Performances, 1982-1983, undated
(3 videocassettes: VHS)
Box Folder
5 1-2 Art Students League Lectures, 1987, 1990, undated
(4 videocassettes: VHS)