Hubert Berke was born in 1908 in Buer, Westphalia, Germany. In 1931 he studied at first philosophy, theology and history of arts at the universities of Münster and Königsberg. In 1932 he began his studies of painting under Fritz Burmann at the academy of art in Königsberg, followed by a switch to the Staatliche Kunstakademie Düsseldorf in 1932 where he became a pupil of Paul Klee (1879-1940). After the Nazi regime banned Klee from the academy in 1933, Heinrich Nauen (1880-1940) in Xanten became an important teacher for Berke. The same year Berke returned to Buer and began to work independently. His first personal exhibition took place at the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum in Cologne in 1936. The following year he travelled to Paris for the first time to deal with literary works by Hans Jakob Christoffel von Grimmelshausen (1621-1676) and Charles-Theodore-Henri de Coster (1827-1879).
Berke was able to hide his thoughts about the period in freely illustrating imaginative plates. In spite of National Socialism his tendency towards surrealism, abstract and tachistic painting became apparent, which became manifest in the 1940s. In 1941 the artist was drafted and got into American war captivity in 1945. After his return Berke settled at first in Alfter. In 1957 he moved to Cologne-Rodenkirchen. During the following years he joined the "Deutscher Künstlerbund", the "Westdeutscher Künstlerbund", the "Neue Rheinische Sezession", the group "Junger Westen", the "Münchner Neue Gruppe" and the group "Zen". Between 1960 and 1975 Berke taught visual composition at the Technische Hochschule Aachen. His visual world was formed by many changes in a constant relation of tension between abstraction and relics of visual experiences, in which his time with Klee had a forming influence. His development took place without upheavals and with a constant broadening of his technical abilities and a refinement of the possibilities of expression.
Berke's works were shown in numerous personal and group exhibitions in museums and galleries. At the Cologne Kunstverein in 1949 and 1971, at the Museum Ludwig in Cologne in 1979, at the Suermondt-Ludwig-Museum Aachen in 1981 and at the Städtische Kunsthalle Mannheim in 1981. Furthermore the artist received important awards and honours like the Cornelius prize of the city of Düsseldorf in 1948, the Großer Preis of the City of Cologne in 1961 and the Karl Ernst Osthaus prize of the city of Hagen as well as the Conrad von Soest prize of the city of Münster in 1962.
Hubert Berke died on 24 November 1979 in Rheinufer in Düsseldorf, Germany.
[Megakles Rogakos 08/2009]
GRIMME, ERNST-GÜNTHER Hubert Berke 1908-1979: Ölbilder, Gouachen und Objekte 1981 Suermondt-Ludwig-Museum, Aachen
W. VON BONIN / R. KREIDLER / E. FRANZ / M. ENGELS / G. UELSBERG / D. TÍLKE Hubert Berke 1908-1979 2008 DuMont Buchverlag, Cologne