November 12, 1921 – April 28, 2018
Born in Brooklyn on Nov. 12, 1921. His family — including his mother, Rebecca, and his father, William, a junk dealer — moved to Titusville, in northwest Pennsylvania, when he was a boy. While in school he developed an interest in art, but his hopes of becoming an artist were limited by his family’s poverty; to help make ends meet he worked as a soda jerk and newspaper delivery boy.
Gerson showed promise in his high school art classes. After working as a printer at the local newspaper, he entered the Army and was assigned to its Signal Corps. Sergeant Leiber was stationed in North Africa and Italy before he was sent to Budapest as World War II was ending. There, in 1945, he met Judith Peto, who had begun selling her unusual handbags and purses to American soldiers. While in Hungary he took classes at the Royal Academy of Art in Budapest.
After the war, he studied at the Art Students League – painting with Louis Bosa and printmaking with Will Barnet. Later, at the Brooklyn Museum’s art school, Gerson began engraving with Gabor Peterdi. His prints won many awards and were featured in many one-person shows, including exhibitions at Associated American Artists and the Alex Rosenberg Gallery.
To support the couple during his art studies, Gerson’s wife, Judith Leiber, designed handbags for major manufacturers. In the 1960s, Gerson persuaded Judith to produce her bags independently, and they opened their own business based on Judith’s designs.
The Leibers bought a farmhouse in East Hampton, Long Island, with a garden that became an inspiration to Gerson. He designed and manipulated the natural shapes to form a living, growing cubism, and these forms and colors became the focus of much of his art. Inspired by gardens, nature, and aspects of the world of fashion, Gerson explores these themes in his present cubist and expressionist work.
Gerson maintained his lifelong commitment to printmaking. He taught etching and engraving at the Printmaking Workshop established by Robert Blackburn.
In 2008, Leiber and his wife opened the Leiber Collection, a museum dedicated to their work on their property in Springs, where the expansive gardens were designed by Leiber.
Leiber, was noted for energetic, lyrical and colorful paintings, which he continued to create into his 90s.
“He was a true modernist, experimenting with form and technique and exploring Abstract Expressionism alongside the artists who would go on to define the movement, like de Kooning and Pollock,” said Jess Frost, associate curator of Guild Hall, the entertainment, arts and education center in East Hampton, N.Y.
He has exhibited his work in more than 200 national and international shows including the Long Island Museum of American Art, History, and Carriages, the Kennedy Galleries and The Israel Museum. His work is part of many permanent collections around the world at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Smithsonian, the Brooklyn Museum, the Malmo Museum in Sweden, the Seattle Museum of Art and others. Between 1953 and 1985, he received more than 30 awards and prizes for his work.