St. Gilgen Celebrates Gift from Lisel Salzer

Pazifische Rundschau (06/05/03)

With the return of 23 oil paintings and 200 sketches dating from Lisel Salzer’s creative period at the Zinkenbacher Artist Colony from 1932-1938, St. Gilgen in Austria celebrated on July 12, 2003 a double success: that of receiving the generous gift donated by the artist as well as the good fortune of having found her again.

After so many years, the idea of stumbling upon a survivor of the Viennese group of artists who spent their summers in the Zinkenbacher Malerkolonie during 1925 to 1938 seemed purely utopian. But that is what happened. And it was Christina Steimetzer, head of the Museum der Zinkenbacher Malerkolonie in St. Gilgen, who found Lisel Salzer in Seattle, Washington. At 96 years of age, she still lives in her own home since having arrived in Seattle in 1950.

Despite her near blindness, she is determined to remain as long as possible in control of matters. Among other things that includes sorting through her mail and using envelopes as pieces of scratch paper. One day the child of a visitor to Lisel Salzer’s home colored the back side of such an envelope and took it home with her. Later the mother was astounded when she discovered that inside was a letter regarding Lisel’s participation in the Zinkenbacher Malerkolonie. Thus, the Museum’s Association in St. Gilgen received the collection thanks to this coincidence.

Lisel was honored with a three-day visit by the Director of the Museum Association from St. Gilgen, Ms. Steinmetzer. She, thus, lived once again through recollection that happy, creatively-rich chapter of her life in Austria and was exceedingly touched. Lisel Salzer felt that "her paintings wished finally to return home," and presented the works from her Zinkenbacher years to the Museum’s Association in St. Gilgen.

Lisel Salzer was born in Vienna in 1906. After having completed the sixth grade where she had experienced her first "boring" art instruction, she entered the Women’s Academy. She had already discovered her love for music and theater and now began to devote herself to her talent for art. She was particularly interested in painting portraits: the most influential teachers who promoted her career were Ferdinand Kitt in Vienna, André Lhote in Paris and Oscar Kokoschka in Salzburg. She immigrated to New York in 1939 where she married Dr. Frederick Grossman. It was in her adopted home of Seattle where many people learned to appreciate her paintings. Since 1945 she had experimented with the old Limoges method of using enamel - fused glass on copper - and created true gems, which one could often admire at the Frye Art Museum and the Four Corners Gallery. Even the Solomon Guggenheim Museum in New York and the Washington State Capitol Museum exhibited Salzer’s works. In 1962 she was exhibited in the Northwest Designer Craftsmen section of the Seattle World’s Fair. After the death of her husband, she returned periodically to Austria. It was there that she learned of the death of her parents in Theresienstadt. Nonetheless, good memories outweigh the bad. One wish was fulfilled - that of purchasing a Steinway grand piano by auction at the Dorotheum.

For some year Lisel’s eyesight has been progressively failing and that has cast a shadow over her joy of artistic creativity. But she still is able to enjoy her flowers and plants, the view of Lake Washington and the mountains, her art collection, music, and occasionally a delicious tidbit or visit with old friends. Without a doubt, the exhibit in St. Gilgen gives her much joy.

In 1997 Lisel became the first honorary member of the Austrian-American Council Chapter in the State of Washington.