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Eugene Berman papers, 1926-1975

Biographical Note

Eugene Berman (1899-1972) worked in New York City, Los Angeles, California, and Rome, Italy as a Neo-Romantic painter and designer of theatrical sets and costumes for opera and ballet productions.
Eugene Berman was born on November 4, 1899 in St. Petersburg, Russia, the son of Lydia and Gustav Berman, who died when Eugene was seven years old. His stepfather was a wealthy banker who paid for his education in Germany, Switzerland, and France. In 1918, the family fled to Paris to escape the Bolshevik Revolution.
While in Paris, Berman studied at the Academie Ranson from 1920 to 1922, under Pierre Bonnard, Edouard Vuillard, and FĂ©lix Valloton. With his brother Leonid, Berman joined a group of painters who became known as Neo-Romantics whose paintings were of melancholy dreamlike scenes with mournful figures, defying the prevalent abstract movements in art. By the late 1920s, Berman was beginning to successfully sell his paintings and after meeting American gallery owner Julian Levy, he was offered an exhibition in New York. Berman continued to exhibit at the Julian Levy Gallery from 1929 to 1947.
In 1935, Eugene and Leonid Berman became war refugees and came to New York City. Eugene Berman designed covers for fashionable publications and by 1937, he was painting murals in private residences and designing sets and costumes for opera and ballet performances including those at the Metropolitan Opera.
Berman moved to California in 1938, settling in Los Angeles, and continued to paint murals and design for the theater. He became an American citizen in 1944. Between 1947 and 1949, he received Guggenheim Fellowships to obtain background images from the Southwest United States and Mexico for use in his art work. Berman married actress Ona Munson in 1949.
Two years after his wife's suicide in 1955, Berman moved to Rome, Italy where he continued to paint and design sets for the theater.
Eugene Berman died on December 14, 1972 in Rome, Italy.