Sunday, November 10, 2013
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Joachim K. "Joe" Loeber

Joachim K. "Joe" Loeber, master artist and teacher, died Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2013 at his home in Key West after challenging terminal cancer for more than six months.

He passed his 93rd birthday on July 8, and continued his artist workshop there until shortly before his death.

Key West was his home from 1973, although there were years of shared residence and teaching with his first home in Westfield, N.J.

Mr. Loeber was an artist of great accomplishment over a long life that spanned Germany and Europe, then America: New Jersey, and Key West, Fla.

Born in 1920 in Sorau, Germany, and a portrait painter from childhood, Joachim "Joe" Loeber entered the Berlin Academy of Fine Arts at the age of 16. But in Hitler Germany, he was appalled as he saw the arts becoming a propaganda medium, with abstract art outlawed. So, while pursuing formal studies at the academy, he also began working actively with a clandestine neo-Bauhaus group of international young artists under the guidance of professors including H. M. Th. Dannenberg.

Through the sponsorship of Professor Arnold Waldschmit, Mr. Loeber was introduced to the eminent abstract expressionist master Edvard Munch in Norway.

Resistant to the realities of life in Hitler Germany, the red-haired rebellious young Loeber managed to survive and paint with whatever resources were available.

He was deeply interested from youth in the art of creative masters including Klee, Kandinsky, Picasso, Feininger. But he was also a classically trained portrait artist and muralist, and those skills helped him after World War II to become a professor of art in Germany, and then emigrate to America with his small family.

In post-war Germany in 1948, Mr. Loeber was invited to head the Department of Art in the Erlangen Army Education Center, affiliate of the University of Maryland. There, in addition to administrative duties as department head, Professor Loeber conducted classes, held lecture courses, and painted numerous murals and portraits, also completing 24 stained glass windows for the Education Center Library there. His portraits included powerful generals and other military leaders.

Drawing ultimately from his creative resources of German expressionist and abstract painting, Joachim "Joe" Loeber emerged over a long lifetime from classical portraits and landscapes into powerful abstract and semi-abstract paintings with amazingly diverse talents and skills that developed in Europe and reached full expression in America, where he emigrated in 1952.

In the United States, he was popular as both a lecturer in art, and a researcher of art materials and the chemistry of art, working to develop products such as a "gel" medium and do experimental testing with his friend the late Ralph Mayer, author of "The Artist's Handbook," a classic reference for professional artists, and several leaders of companies including Utrecht.

During his years in New Jersey, the artist counted as one of his good friends the late artist Ben Shahn, whose book "The Shape of Content" was published in 1957 and based on a series of six lectures that Mr. Shahn gave during a term as a Harvard University Professor.

After emigrating to the U.S. and opening a private studio in Westfield, N.J., Mr. Loeber taught private and semi-private classes and conducted a master workshop for promising students, a practice he also continued in Key West for more than 35 years.

While teaching at the Summit Art Center (now New Jersey Center for Visual Arts) for years, he was also elected president of the New Jersey Academy of Fine Arts. During that time, he also conducted European study trips and was featured in a one-man show preceding a Chagall exhibition at the Rau Gallery in Bamberg, Germany. He later served as president of the Painters and Sculptors Society in New Jersey.

In Key West, where he "fell in love with the city, the location and the people," he was featured in a one-man show with the Key West Art and Historical Society at the East Martello Gallery and Museum. At the time, critic Stephen Langford in The Key West Citizen wrote "The greatness of Joachim K. Loeber would warrant guiding busloads of schoolchildren through his exhibit, in order to show them what a master painter was doing in the year of our Bicentennial. Here is an enormous talent. As a colorist he would rank with Vasareky; his mastery of design is without equal in these parts; his versatility is such that to list his favorite themes would sound like an index to an art encyclopedia. He has no style, so varied and brilliant is each work..."

After settling full-time in his Key West home in the 1970s, Mr. Loeber and his wife Irene, also an artist known professionally as Irene Stanton, shared their large, airy studio space, and over the years welcomed many students and guests to their studio and gallery.

Joe Loeber has also exhibited his work at the Gallery on Greene in Key West.

Insistently maintaining his personal privacy as an artist, Mr. Loeber supported the arts in Key West, including regular contributions to the Anne McKee Artists Fund Auction, and donations including his "Treasure King," a large oil painting that reflected his personal awareness of the triumph and tragedy of the quest of the late Mel Fisher and his family for lost Spanish treasure galleons, which was given to the Fisher family.

In 1997, featured as "Loeber: A Singular Artist" in The Key West Citizen, the artist voiced a principal theme: "Art to me should make the invisible visible, and the common uncommon...."

Artist, painter of diverse skills and choices of media, Joe Loeber always emphasized "Life is what I am trying to express in my art work."

He is survived by his wife Irene; two sons by a previous marriage; three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

As no memorial services are planned, family suggestions would be for contributions to the Hospice and Visiting Nurse Association of the Florida Keys, 1319 William St., Key West, FL 33040. Dean-Lopez Funeral Home is handling arrangements.