Selected examples by historic California artists


Edward Biberman (1904-1986)

Untitled (Skiers), c. 1950


 Oil on canvas, 20 x 30 in.


Skiers is an unusual work by an artist who is usually associated with streamlined modernism applied to subjects such as architecture, portraiture, and social comment.  Skiing began in the Stone Age in Norway as a way of hunting animals, but by the year 1000 it was also being used as a sport.  In California, skis were used in the Sierra Nevada gold fields in 1850 for both practical purposes and later betting purposes.  In the twentieth century, as Americans became more affluent and as automobiles and roads allowed access for urbanites to mountain resorts, the sport grew in popularity.  In this scene, the clothing (bill hat with ear flaps, loose jacket, and baggy slacks cinched with a belt) was the type that was in fashion c. 1950, thus dating the picture to about that time.  Why Biberman would essay such an unusual subject is unknown unless it was done as a commercial commission – in the post-World War II era, skiing was promoted by auto clubs, travel agents and ski resorts alike.  He may also have been intrigued by the aesthetic of dark objects (skis, trees) against a white background (snow).  Although realistic, Biberman makes the work “modernist” (almost like a Mondrian)  with his formal arrangement of black and whites and by dotting the surface with colorful highlights (gloves).