Delaware River School of Art

Fred Kirberger

In 1952, when most of us that were here were still dabbling in crayons, Fred Kirberger was already at work as an illustrator with Charles E. Cooper Studio in New York City. In the days before photography took over, the studio artists created work for advertising agencies throughout the city. Fred’s career took him to New Jersey where, while working as worked as an advertising art director, he developed his professional ambitions in fine art. As a member of the “North Jersey 12” in the 1960s—a group of well-known artists that included Jo Kotula, Homer Hill, Steve Chadova and Everett Sarbeck—Kirberger established his reputation, showing and selling work in a number of exhibits and galleries. By the time a multi-national marketing firm absorbed his Montclair agency, Kirberger was ready to retire to his new occupation as a fine artist, one that has spanned thirty-five years since.

Early in his career, Kirberger experimented with a number of styles—impressionism, abstractionism and cubism—before turning to realism, a form with which he is most comfortable. When he moved from Maplewood to Basking Ridge, Fred became enamored with the region’s wealth of natural beauty, painting rural and wildlife scenes typically found in that area, including a wonderful series on the Great Swamp.

Although he has painted scenes from Maine to Seattle, Kirberger was always drawn to the Delaware Water Gap since his days “as a kid” when he went to Shawnee to hear Fred Waring’s orchestra. “I went out with a girl who had a beautiful voice,” he remembers. “I got her an interview with Waring, and we drove up there one day in my Austin Healey. He hired her on the spot, and that was the end of my girlfriend!”

To date, Kirberger has created well-over five hundred paintings found in homes and public spaces throughout the region, and although he says he’s lost track of it all, Fred’s work still hangs in galleries from Manasquan to Massachusetts. Much of that work includes scenes from the Delaware Valley where he moved twenty-five years ago, near Milford in Hunterdon County. His association with the Decoys and Wildlife Gallery began when its owner, Ron Kobli, noticed his work and commissioned him to paint Frenchtown, where the gallery resides. Kirberger painted the scene, with the Delaware River flowing through the valley, from high above the village on a mountaintop on the Pennsylvania side. Although you’ll find many of Fred’s paintings at the Frenchtown gallery, that particular piece still hangs above Kobli’s fireplace at home.

The land along the Delaware River is rife with artists who portray the river and its environment in all its splendor. Here are more artists who honor this federally-designated “Scenic and Recreational River” and surrounding landscape...

This story was first published: Spring, 2016