Robert GRIBBROEK US, 1906-1971
"Whether in fantastical abstractions or in depictions of flora, he brought a sense of another world into his artworks. He left New Mexico too soon to work as an art director in Hollywood, leaving very few of his paintings for us to enjoy."
- Aaron Payne
A painter, illustrator and commercial art director, Robert Gribbroek spent the prime of his career in Southern California but was a frequent visitor to Taos, New Mexico where he was a member of the Transcendental Painting Group that espoused abstract and non-objective painting.
Gribbroek was born in Rochester, New York. He studied at the Rochester Institute of Technology, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and in the 1930s, at the University of New Mexico field school in Taos, and with Emil Bisttram at his Taos School of Art. In the early 1930s, Gribbroek was a commercial art director in Rochester for Hutchins Advertising Company, and from 1934 through 1935, was Art Director for the Rochester Museum and Science Center. Then he enrolled in the Art Students League in New York City, studying with Morris Kantor and Kimon Nicolaides. He was also a student of Donald Graham at the Art Center in Los Angeles, but the date is unknown.
In 1929, he began his visits to New Mexico where he lived “on and off” for several years at the Isleta Pueblo, in the Rio Grande Valley about 13 miles south of Albuquerque. There he met William Lumpkins and Brooks Willis, who were painting at the pueblo, and it was the beginning of a long friendship with Lumpkins, whom Gribbroek later introduced to Emil Bisttram. In 1936, Gribbroek moved to Taos and began study with Bisttram and through him, met Horace Towner Pierce and Florence Miller Pierce, husband and wife. These associations then led to Gribbroek’s participation in establishing the Transcendental Painting Group (TPG), New Mexico’s pioneering group of painters dedicated to abstraction. Few paintings of his from this period are extant.
In the mid 1940s, Gribbroek worked as a technical illustrator for Douglas Aircraft in Los Angeles followed by employment with Disney Studios. Then, for 18 years, he was in Hollywood with Warner Brothers where according to some sources, he co-founded Looney Tune cartoons and served as studio Art Director. In this capacity, he created backgrounds for Tweety Bird, Sylvester the Cat and Roadrunner.