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Painting by Felix Berger



enamel, cardboard, Shanghai

Felix Berger made this small enamel painting on cardboard in Shanghai, China. He lived there from 1939 to 1949, selling works like these to survive in the difficult conditions.

Felix was from Vienna, Austria, where he was raised in a well-off family. He was a talented artist from a young age, but his father had other ambitions for him and sent him to commercial college. Leading up to the war, Felix sensed the urgency of the political situation in Austria and Germany. He decided to leave Vienna in 1938 while he still had the chance. After an unsuccessful attempt to seek asylum in England, he and a friend departed for Shanghai in 1939.

In China, he had to sell everything he owned to buy food, but he kept his paints and brushes. His passion for art became his means of survival. By the end of the war he had nothing but a singlet, a pair of shorts, a pair of shoes and his paintbrushes.

Felix obtained a permit to migrate to Australia in 1949.

Passport-sized photograph of Felix, c. 1940

Donated by David and Janet Houltby
M2004/016:003, M2004/016:009

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