The Bernard Artmann Museum
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The Bernard Artmann Museum

Each Passover, the tale of the Jews’ toil as slaves and exodus from Egypt is to be retold at the Seder table, so their affliction is neither forgotten nor repeated. The same is to be done about the Holocaust, a systematic annihilation of more than 12 million Europeans that included more than 6 million Jews. 

In 1937, a young Austrian artist fled before the horrors of the Nazi genocide took hold one of Europe’s greatest artistic treasures, Vienna. Bernard Artmann grew up an orthodox Jew. He dreamed of studying under the best Austrian artists to expand his view and find his own voice and style. An anti-Semetic-fuled attack in middle school scarred him both physically and emotionally, causing him to drop out of school for fear of his safety. It was the catalyst for his own exodus from Austria as his dreams turned to nightmares of bombs dropping on Austria and overwhelming death.  Bernard left Austria and traveled to England.  He boarded a boat in Southampton, England and arrived in the United States of America on May 31st, 1938.

Bernard was loath to speak about flight. Instead, his children only heard second-hand stories from their mother or after prying them out of Bernard for retribution funds from the Austrian government, which amounted to $11,000. However, his grief helped shape his art while the genocide is not a main theme in his photographs, sketches and oil paintings. 

Bernard’s journey took him to England, New York, Los Angeles, Paris and San Francisco (Bay Area), California. During each stop, he plied his trade as an artist and photographer while studying at: the Volkshochschule in Vienna; Art Center School in Los Angeles, where he met and studied with Ansel Adams; Art Students' League and the Hans Hoffman Art School, both in New York City; and Academy de Grand Chaumiére in Paris. He also taught art in New York and Northern California, and his editorial drawings had been published in Glamour magazine and Jardin des Modes in 1949. Bernard's work has also appeared in the Garden Room Gallery at the Empire State Building, Willoughby's in New York, the city's Museum of Natural History, and the Triangle Gallery in San Francisco. However, he put food on the table for his seven children as a garment cutter in San Francisco.    

Bernard Artmann passed away on July 10th, 2010 at the age of 92.  Much of Bernard's work is in storage, but his youngest son believes Bernard's work has a higher purpose. Abe Artmann seeks to present Bernard's catalogue to the world through museums that teach tolerance, understanding, and the quality and importance of diversity. Abe believes others can learn from and enjoy Bernard's artwork as it tells a story of a displaced artist. It tells of love for freedom and dreams of what could have been had he not been forced to leave Austria.

However, his art persists in a state of perfection, eliciting deep emotions through a collection of decades of portraits and landscapes. Abe would like to share Bernard's work with the world in two phases: a virtual collection and, eventually, two permanent museums.  The first museum would be in San Francisco Bay Area and the second in Vienna, Austria since these two cities Bernard once called home. The work would be an opportunity for others to learn about a man's life so far from the place he called home.