Item #AT-0296

"Sera di Venezia" by Rolf Gerard (1909-2011)


"Sera di Venezia" by Rolf Gerard (1909-2011) Watercolor on Paper of gondolas in Venice Italy.

Gilt period frame.




9"H x 24"W


16.5"H x 31.5"W

Rolf Gérard was German/American and active/lived in France, Switzerland, London, New York City. He is known for oil painting, watercolor, set design, Opera and Broadway costume renderings, Metropolitan Opera Posters and Program design.

Rolf Gérard was born August 9, 1909. His father, Walter, led a successful company in Charlottenburg, and his mother was the famous Italian opera singer, Mafalda Salvatini (1886-1971). Both his parents pressured him to study Philosophy and Logic rather than the arts.

By 1932 the Nazis began to spread throughout Germany. Rolf left and moved to study in Oxford, England, one of the few oases where he was still granted the freedom of thought and creativity.

In 1933 the situation in Germany continued to decline. Gerard decided to move to France to attend The Sorbonne and take in the artistic environment of Paris. In this period of his life, he started painting and his interest in the arts continued. He began dating the actress Lilli Palmer, a friendship that lasted a lifetime. He later moved to Basel and enrolled at the University of Basel and studied medicine and philosophy receiving his doctorate in Medicine in 1937. The decision was not difficult for him to follow Lilli Palmer in exile after the graduation in 1937.

During the Second World War while in London he had contacts with the music and theater world through his mother. This allowed him to have a modest livelihood, because as a foreigner without papers, he could not work as a doctor. During this time, Rolf Gérard changed from the doctor to the artist. The artistic environment in London that surrounded him spurred his interest in music, theater and art.

While walking on the Thames in 1944 he met the artist Oskar (Oscar) Kokoschka (1886-1980). he world-famous master gave the 23-year younger Gérard important lessons on painting technique, styles, and expression. With his teachings Gérard increasingly began to paint freely, to water-paint without pencil and to find his own technique and style. This has resulted in his playfully light style, which is characteristic of his later works. Kokoschka's influence can be seen in his work for the rest of Gerard's life.
After the war he met the famous director, Peter Brook, with whom he began to collaborate. First in 1947, designing Romeo and Juliet in Stratford-upon-Avon and later, at theaters throughout England and America. He also designed many productions at the Geneva Opera under the direction of Herbert Graf. Glyndebourne Opera House, in Sussex, was one of many prestigious opera houses for which he designed. In 1950 he was called to New York by the director of the Metropolitan Opera.

As a set designer for film and television, he worked for Gene Kelly, Joseph L. Mankiewicz, Victor Saville, Tyrone Guthrie and Mary Arthur Rabenalt. Some highlights include Carmen (1952) (TV) The Silver Chalice (1954), Eine Frau, die weiss, was sie will (1958) (costume designer for Lilli Palmer), Invitation to the Dance (1956) (costume designer: segment Ring Around the Rosy) The Merry Widow (1983) (TV). He was nominated for Broadway's 1961 Tony Award as Best Costume Designer (Musical) for Irma La Douce.

Throughout Rolf Gérard’s life, he continued to paint and create. In 1939 he exhibited in London and then regularly from the 1950's in New York and Paris. While in Paris he met Picasso, who became a good friend and a great influence for years to come. At this time Gerard was awarded the title of Chevalier de la Legion d'honneur and again in 1971 to Officer for the work done in Europe and in America.

* Photo from Eine Frau, die weiss, was sie will (1958), Lilli Palmer

Later in 1971 he was asked again by Herbert Graf to design for Opera Geneva. During this period, his wife Kyra became ill and died. With the disappearance of his greatest inspiration, Rolf Gérard left Geneva and moved permanently back to Ascona Switzerland, where, in 2006, he founded the Rolf Gérard Foundation. He died in 2011 at the age of 102 years old.

He left behind a legacy of works. Not only fine paintings, but set designs, costume renderings, and illustrations for opera programs, posters, and archives full of brilliant creative works of art.