Thursday, 23 January 2014

Fred Fredden Goldberg: a summing up.

Fred Fredden Goldberg

(Berlin 24-09-1889 – 5-11-1973 San Francisco)

German, American painter and printmaker.

Besides collecting woodblock prints the saving and storing of bits and pieces of information eventually and inevitably will lead to the revelation and unobscuring of obscured and forgotten printmakers.   

One of my recent acquisitions is this charming red Robin print. “Rotkelchen” in German although I’m not convinced we are talking of the same species of garden bird (see in the comments, below, for the proper ornithological name). Over the years I've found a few more examples of "Goldberg prints" and I even was able to obtain one or two. Thank you August for this last one !

Although Fred Goldberg's prints are not very special, he's not a Walter Klemm or Martin Erich Philipp and by no means his landscape and flower prints are coming close to prints created by the earliest German women printmakers. But they are quite decorative and better then anything I've ever achieved in this field. And to be honest they are usually affordable and thus within my financial reach. 

The seller of the Robin, a well known Austrian printmaker and himself a student of Carl Rotky (1881-1977) knew it was by Fred Goldberg and it was this last and vital piece (the Fred part) of information that had to fall into place. All signatures I've seen were without the Fred part. Besides, Rotky and Goldberg had been contemporaries. So here's what I’ve been able to piece together  so far about the life and times of Fred Fredden Goldberg. 

Born in Berlin as the son of an accomplished artist father, whom I haven’t been able to trace yet, he studied at the “Königliche Akademie” in Munich, in the “Ecole des beaux Arts” and also in the “Académie Julian” in Paris.

In several different writings Goldberg was described as a “Tiermaler”, a painter of animals, but also as a portrait and landscape painter who had been commissioned to paint the portrait of Kaiser Wilhelm II but also as being a theatre director. It is said he visited travelled to California and also worked there in 1904. If this is true, at age 15, I do not know. In in other article his father is mentioned to be the painter of the Kaisers portrait.

Poster by Fred Fredden Goldberg.
Apparently Goldberg visited many European countries on foot and to improve his skills in paintings animals he travelled to (German) East Africa for a year. Finally, in the 1950-60’s, he was recorded as “disappeared from the records since the mid 1930’s” while before working and teaching as an artist and professor in Berlin.

In the Jewish ghetto: Shanghai
For Jews life in Germany had become increasingly impossible from the mid 1930’s. The world, according to Chaim Weissmann, the Zionist leader  seemed to be divided into two parts --"those places where Jews could not live and those where they could not enter".

But a forgotten chapter in history are the many thousands of European, Baltic and Russian Jews that found shelter and lived in exile until after the ending of WWII in Shanghai, in China.

Read here* this condensed and immensely interesting story. Among those who found shelter in Shanghai in 1938 was Fred Goldberg who after the war  did not return to Germany but emigrated to California in 1947. America had financially supported the Jewish Shanghai community.

From his Shanghai refuge period these watercolors by his hand have survived. Goldberg lived and painted the rest of his life until his death in 1973 in California.

A fire is said to have destroyed most of his surviving paintings in 1980. I think his woodblock prints were all created in the 1920-30’s and in Berlin.

Any further information on the work and life of Fred Fredden Goldberg is very welcomed and shall be shared in this Blog.

August Trummer (b.1946) send me these 3 auction catalogue pictures if which I would very much like to know and see the original color prints. 

All pictures borrowed freely from the Internet for friendly, educational and non commercial use only. 


  1. It's too bad Goldberg didn't produce a memoir - his must have been an eventful life.

  2. Most of the artists I show in the Blog artists left very few traces in history besides the prints and paintings they've created. It's at its best a superficial short biography by my superficial and limited internet research. But better then nothing at all, I hope. Maybe it's a start for furthering by future enthusiasts.
    Thanks for stopping by Karen.

  3. Gerrie, You have done well to decipher his signature.

    I suspect that the bird shown may be the American robin,
    entirely different from the familiar European bird of the same name. James

    1. That could be the case James, but I think he created (this, these, all) woodblock prints before he fled to Shanghai, so in Germany. I picked this one "Rotkelchen" up in Germany. Thanks for stopping by.

  4. The Rotkelchen is neither of the above mentioned birds, but a 'Rose Chested Grossbeak', Pheucticus ludovicianus, 'roodborstkardinaal in Dutch and Rosenbrust-Kernknacker in German.

    (It does have a Rotkelchen, –red throat– but it's not the bird that is known by that name, nor is it a Robin of any kind. Confusing, I know... :-)

    1. Well, to be honest I doubted the species also, because it doesn't look like our little friend in the garden. I'm very happy you've put things ornithologically right.

  5. I recently aquired a ceramic mask done by him in 1949. I was actually shocked to find his signature on it since he is more known for his asian inspired paintings and prints. I've seen his signature in a number of different ways. Mine is signed FREDDEN 49' but you can clearly tell it is his by the way he doesn't attached the top line in his E's.

  6. I am not sure if this Fred Goldberg is the same artist who painted an oil that was given to my father by the artist whose name was Fred Fredden Goldberg. The painting is very much in need of cleaning and restoring. It is a beautiful woman dressed is a Sari like outfit. I can post a photo if interested.

    1. Please, do send !

  7. In the early 30ies a Graphic Designer named Fred Goldberg, who create in Berlin Dusk Jackets for Mysteries [Delta-Verlag]. I believe, it is the same artist...

    1. Thank you, all these little bits of information are very helpful.

  8. Fred Fredden Goldberg was my first painting teacher at his gallery in San Francisco on Polk street. I studied with him from 1957 until 1963. My parents were also German Jewish refugess who fled to Shanghai in 1938. I was born in the Shanghai ghetto in 1946. He was a wonderful teacher and lovely man who would play the piano while we students painted. I remember many of his incredible paintings, some quite large; also a 3 panel screen of the Grand Canyon if I remember correctly. I taught painting and drawing for 40 years afterward.

  9. Thank you, anonymous commentor. It's always great to receive reactions and new facts about the often forgotten artists I write about. Greetings from the Netherlands !

  10. Steven Less

    Wonderful coincidences!

    After seeing some of my late father's work, an art professor asked me if there was any connection between him (John Hans Less) and the artist Emil Orlik. Quick research on Orlik revealed that he died while my father was still in grade-school in Berlin. While Orlik had apparently lived and worked in Berlin for many years, and had been in Asia to learn something about woodcutting techniques, etc., and recorded some of his impressions and incorporated the knowledge he acquired in his work, all of this happened long before my father had any inkling that he would find refuge from Nazi persecution in Shanghai. So, I couldn't imagine any direct link.

    Then I started to wonder about my father's teachers, who may indeed have been influenced by or at least knew of Orlik's work. This is where, thanks to your website I encountered Fred Goldberg's art for the first time.

    After my father lost his internship position at a printing company in Berlin, where he was being trained to do lithography when the firm was Aryanized, he was briefly able to take private art lessons (in 1938 or 1939) with Fred-Fredden Goldberg. He later had contact with Goldberg again in Shanghai.

    Like Goldberg, my father immigrated from Shanghai to the US after WWII, but in contrast to Goldberg, he ended up on the East Coast. There, he found work as a layout artist for Bambergers' department store, eventually becoming the Bambergers' dept. store chain's VP for advertising. After retiring, he devoted himself to painting. My father never forgot his experiences in Shanghai and during the 1990s he did a series of watercolor drawings intended to illustrate a written memoir and based on original sketches he drew in Shanghai.

    To honor my father's memory and commemorate others from among "the drowned and the saved", I've arranged for exhibitions of his Holocaust- and China-related artwork at the Jewish Museum of New Jersey and the Gaelen Gallery in NJ, as well as Bensheim Museum and at the Heidelberg city archives in Germany. For samples of items included in these exhibitions, see the following websites:,-bensheim-bilder-als-appell-die-pogromnacht-nie-zu-vergessen-_arid,948871.html,Lde/HD/Rathaus/ausstellung_+flucht+deutscher+juden+nach+shanghai.html