1925 - 2003
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Herbert Siebner, a member of the Limners, a prominent group of Victoria-based artists, was born in 1925 to a cultured family in the city of Stettin, near the Baltic Sea in Germany. Though a most unlikely recruit, he was drafted into Hitler’s army at the age of 17. He escaped, and thereafter determined to survive.
A student of the Expressionist painters in Berlin just after the World War II, Siebner saw through the bourgeois European life. It was as a vivid Modernist that he came to Victoria in 1954. Arriving penniless and without a working knowledge of English, Siebner (with his wife Hannelore) created a new art world around him in his new home.
Siebner refined his expression to the essence. As a young man he was able to sketch geography and architecture with panache. As his work evolved, he reduced the complexity of space to a simple horizon line. Above and below this line, the sky and the sea were indicated by his all purpose cobalt blue. Conscious of his role in this drama, Siebner was the Hero, a phallocrat confronting elemental powers—the same thing Picasso and Jackson Pollock were playing at.
Early on Siebner saw where civilization was heading, opted out and became a neo primitive. It is impossible to separate the artist’s personality from his work. During his 50 years in Victoria, Siebner lived out his mythology, creating a persona considerably larger than life.
He was aided in his myth-making by many associates. Colin Graham, then director of the Victoria Art Gallery, gave him 10 solo shows there, the first within a year of his arrival. Robin Skelton, head of the Creative Writing Department at the University of Victoria and editor of the Malahat Review, was one of Siebner’s closest allies. Fellow members of art groups 'The Point' and 'The Limners' were always ready to socialise.
Dick Morriss of Morriss Printers saw that books about Siebner were well designed and available. The Victoria Times newspaper published dozens of sketches sent from Siebner’s Canada Council sponsored tours in British Columbia and Europe. A Canadian favourite, Siebner’s art is found in numerous permanent collections around the world.