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Still-life artist Paul DiBert's literal ancestors were French Huguenots who emigrated to Canada early in the 17th century. More than one astute observer has suggested that DiBert's aesthetic roots can also be traced to Europe and to a great artistic tradition of another time.
In DiBert's case, however, origins don't mean much in defining the man or his work. This American artist has been almost constantly on the move since his birth in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, around 1929. His father was a musician and Paul, as an only child, grew up on the road. During his early childhood years, DiBert entertained himself by drawing as the family traveled from one town to the next. Later he added other diversions, such as playing the trumpet and earning his private pilot's license at the age of sixteen.
The DiBert family landed in Detroit in the '40s and decided to stay for a while. "Detroit was a good music town," DiBert recalls. "But there wasn't much encouragement for art." DiBert quit high school in 1946 and entered the service at the age of seventeen to finish his education in uniform.
While in the military, diBert's artistic ability was soon recognized. While serving with the Alaskan Command, he painted a picture of an old Russian church. The watercolor came to the attention of the Chief of Chaplains, General Luther Miller, who hung it in his Pentagon office. "The General invited me to come visit him, so while on a trip to Washington to tour the National Gallery, I stopped by his office," says DiBert, who was pleased to find his painting where the General said it would be.
Upon leaving the service in 1948, DiBert hoped to pursue a career in art. He moved to Pittsburgh to study with the renowned painter and portraitist Henry Marcus Moran and from there his career began to take off.
Los Angeles Times critic William Wilson wrote, "The thing that is fascinating about DiBert's dark, varnished pictures is their ethical function. One realizes that these are moral allegories, as were the works of his ancestors, Harnett, Peto, and the Dutch specialists."
Paul DiBert passed away in April, 2009.