Archived in 2016
Gerte Hacker was a Shaker Heights native known for her distinctly unique, intricate and colorful enamel pieces. Having studied at Cleveland Institute of Art, the John Huntington Polytechnic College, and Cleveland College under such artists as Rolf Stoll, William Eastman, and Peter Paul Dubaniwicz, Hacker began her artistic career in portraiture, working primarily in oils and watercolors before her love for color drove her to transition into enameling.
The critical response to Hacker’s work was overwhelmingly positive, earning her a number of awards and distinctions from institutions such as the Butler Institute, the Canton Museum of Art, and the Cleveland Museum of Art’s May Show. In 1951, she was given a first-place award in the Butler Institute’s New Year’s Show for her gesso-Masonite panel “The White Pitcher” and soon afterwards, her enamel plate “The Ming Tree” was chosen among a select few pieces to travel the country as a part of the Syracuse National Ceramic Show.
Her popularity and distinctions soon garnered the attention of retailers such as the Higbee Co., Marshall Field & Co., Cowell & Hubbard, and Lord & Taylor, who purchased and distributed her jewelry, cigarette, and home accessories in major cities such as Cleveland, Chicago, and New York. The Higbee Co., later commissioned her for a succession of enamel trays that were presented as gifts to the governors of each state to be displayed and used in their mansions, as well as bowls that were given to special persons in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Osaka. She was able to make a living for herself and her family as an artist at a time when few women were entrepreneurs.
Hacker was known for accomplishing a level of depth and saturation of hues in her enamel pieces that was typically associated with the artistic qualities of oil paints. The “jewel-like” colors she was able to create in her enamel pieces were achieved through a process of superimposing her hand-sifted pigments on one another through a series of multiple firings. Hacker was very forthcoming about her process, opening her studio to the public and allowing fans of her work to watch her as she created new pieces.
Another distinct quality of Hacker’s work was the uniqueness of each piece she created. Her attention to each enamel ensured that no two pieces she made looked exactly the same, thereby ensuring their artistic value as individual works of art.