Henry Koerner ( American, born Austrian, 1915 - 1991 )
Painted during the artist’s most celebrated period, Henry Koerner’s June Night is an important example of magical realism, a movement characterized by imaginative yet realist imagery and a clean, highly finished style. Shortly after immigrating to the United States from his native Vienna in 1939, Koerner was drafted into the US Army and later served as a court artist at the Nuremberg Trials. Haunted by the death of his parents and brother—victims of the Holocaust—the young artist returned to the US, briefly settling in Brooklyn. There he explored the chaos of postwar America and sought to memorialize his family, formulaically combining real and imagined perceptions of daily life in deeply personal cityscapes.
In this painting balancing memory and reality, Koerner’s open windows are consciously voyeuristic. The artist’s son, art historian Joseph Koerner, writes of the deeply personal familial allusions painted within each open-window vignette, noting his father’s emphasis on interpersonal relationships. The artist’s juxtaposition of intimate, private spaces viewed through the exterior of an apartment building’s brick façade is echoed in his personal motives for painting, stating, “Art is just a hole through which we can see life.”
Henry Koerner Center for Emeritus Faculty
Read a short biography of Henry Koerner from Yale University.