Who Was Henry Koerner?

Austrian/American artist, Henry Koerner, is best known for his 46 Time Magazine portrait covers as well as for his magical (symbolic) realism. Born to non-observant Jewish parents, Koerner fled Austria when the Germans annexed it and made his way to the United States by way of Italy. While living in New York City he met and married the mother of our consignors, Fritzy Apfel. The June Auction presents five works from the collection of Ms. Apfel, later Fritzy Apfel Koerner Kaufman. The works were gifted to her by Koerner and have never been at auction presenting a very rare opportunity for collectors.

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Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

In addition to painting, Koerner was well known as a graphic artist and notably created award winning posters. Upon being drafted into the US Army, he began making War Posters. Incredibly, following VE Day, he was assigned to Germany and was tasked with sketching defendants at the Nuremberg Trials.

Following the war, he returned to visit Vienna where he discovered his family had been murdered by the Nazi’s. This knowledge and loss wove itself into his work heavily populated by his memories, his experiences, and his family. He played with proportion and perspective and juxtaposition. He later wrote:

“Juxtaposition, in my paintings, is the conscious and unconscious assembly of familiar objects (nature and man-made) with human beings, who, in their attitude towards each other and the objects, mean something very deep to me—though they may be separated by time and space. This affinity manifests itself only as a result of personal experiences and persistent memories.”

The five pieces in the June auction represent works in four different mediums and depict varying styles and genres of the artist’s oeuvre. Similarly, the works are in different price points so there truly is something for everyone. Lots 1200 and 1203 are both watercolors, one urban and one pastoral.


Lot 1203, Henry Koerner. Cows in the Field, watercolor

Lot 1201 is a whimsical graphite figure study for a later work titled “Playing Pretend.”


Lot 1201, Henry Koerner. "Study for Playing Pretend," graphite

A charming pen and ink city scene, complete with a VW Bug is at lot 1204.


Lot 1204, Henry Koerner. City Scene with Volkswagen, ink

And lastly, lot 1202, is a striking city view in gouache with an interesting perspective.


Lot 1202, Henry Koerner. Rooftops, gouache

You will not want to miss the chance to add one of these to your art collection.



Kathleen Hamill

Director, Modern & Contemporary Art