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Serge Hollerbach
“I believe the third eye is the inner eye—something that your spirit, or your mind, or your soul, sees. It’s not physical seeing, it’s the inner seeing.”

This oral history was compiled from two recorded conversations in the Upper West Side studio of Serge Hollerbach with A’Dora Phillips and Brian Schumacher in early 2014. We worked closely with Hollerbach to organize and clarify the transcript before posting it to The Vision & Art Project website in January 2017.


Among other things, Serge Hollerbach discusses:

  • His macular degeneration and how it’s caused him to work more expressionistically.
  • Meeting artist William Thon after Thon lost his eyesight and corresponding with artist Milford Zornes, who also suffered from macular degeneration.
  • Growing up in Stalinist Russia.
  • The interruption of his life and early art studies in 1941 when the Nazis invaded Leningrad.
  • After World War II, picking up his art studies at the Munich Academy of Art, working for the American Red Cross GI canteen in Munich, and emigrating to the United States.
  • Building his career as an artist and teacher in the United States.
  • His thoughts about the subjects he takes on.
  • Artists he admires, including Lucian Freud, Georges de La Tour, Vermeer, and Luis Melendez.
  • Some distinct characteristics of the Russian tradition of painting.

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“[There] are two kinds of disturbances of the eyes, stemming from two sources – when they have been transferred from light to darkness and when they have been transferred from darkness to light.”
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