Guntram Hans Gersch
(1935 – 2013)
Guntram Hans Gersch of Tryon, North Carolina and Évian-les-Bains, France, died January 13, 2013 in the Hôpitaux de Leman at Thonon-les-Bains.
Mr. Gersch was born May 6, 1935 at Glatz, Silesia, then in Germany and now in Poland. His given name was after the title character of the opera Guntram by composer Richard Strauss, whose son he met in later life. During the war his family, who owned food and hotel businesses, took refuge at their mountain inn by the Czech border. In 1946 they were expelled by Soviet forces, with one suitcase per person at short notice, to West Germany where as refugees they were sheltered in a farmer's barn. Guntram studied professional cooking and hotel work at Frankfurt-am-Main from 1951 through '54, then worked his first job abroad in Honduras at a private club in Tegucigalpa in 1955. There he prepared a banquet for visiting guest Mrs. Richard Nixon.
The next year he immigrated to Florida, worked at Toy Town resort in Winchendon, Mass. and settled in Chicago earning his living in the hospitality industry. Gersch became a U.S. citizen, served in the Army and was honorably discharged. In the early Sixties he also began seriously making and collecting fine art, studying at the Art Institute of Chicago. His first one-man show was at Counterpoint Gallery in 1967. His early oeuvre, grotesque self-portraiture derived from childhood memories of war, was soon replaced by pure abstraction, the style for which Gersch became known as a professional artist. His first foreign exhibition was in Beirut, Lebanon at American University in 1973. The next year his artwork was featured by Bonouche Gallery in Bahrain. He went on to exhibit at Gallery Kroner in Zurich, Switzerland and in Germany, Belgium, England and Los Angeles. In 1992 Lloyd Shin Gallery in Chicago began representing Gersch's art, publishing an illustrated essay by famed critic Robert C. Morgan extolling his Modernist mixed-media works on paper.
Gersch traveled widely, backpacking in the Middle East, Cyprus, Turkey and Greece. During the 1980s he relocated to the Door Peninsula, Wisconsin, a magnet for artists. Summers in Europe he resided at Évian-les-Bains on Lake Geneva. In 1998, together with longtime partner Stanley Lee Brightwell who died in 2010, Gersch acquired the Modernist house and studio "Serendipity" in Tryon, formerly owned by painter Robert Jordan, for their winter home. The Upstairs Artspace exhibited a major retrospective "Guntram Gersch: Forty Years" in spring 2007. That autumn Red Clover Gallery in Landrum, S.C. mounted a show of his mixed-media titled "Symphony in Form" as well as his last one-man show "Nine Dips, Two Trips and a Quad" of new work in 2008. His art was also shown in Spartanburg and at Tryon Fine Arts Center. He hosted the docents of Asheville Art Museum to a tour of his studio, where he also welcomed collectors.
Gersch had keen interests in classical music, fine cuisine, and perpetuating the Germanic cultural history of Silesia. He is survived by a sister and other relatives in Germany.