November 15, 1932 Hetzeldorf
August 5, 1977 Vancouver, Canada
Gerhard Juchum was born of German parents on November 15, 1932 in Hetzeldorf
, Rumania. He was raised on his grandfather's estate which was in the Tarnava region, an area well-known for its wine production.
Early in his life his parents became aware of his artistic and musical gifts. Gerhard expressed his highly creative imagination through his drawings and paintings. The possibilities for fostering such talent were limited in Tarnava, so his parents placed him in a German elementary school in Hetzeldorf. Here he excelled.
He strove for a higher education. Because he was German the Rumanian authorities refused to allow him to attend secondary school. But Gerhard never let himself be discouraged. He looked for, and found, Rumanian friends who recognized and appreciated his sincerity and worth. They made it possible for him to enter high school in Medias
, near Hetzeldorf.
Later he was allowed to enter university to become a veterinarian. This was satisfactory for a time, but gradually he realized how restricted he was and his yearning for freedom grew. His wish was to be creative in the arts.
Gerhard, however, again made friends who were willing to help him to return to his community. Veterinarians were badly needed. An Army Major who posed for a bust thought much of Gerhard's art and helped him to return to Hetzeldorf to practise veterinary medicine.
His yearning for freedom heightened immeasurably. His mother had left Rumania for West Germany during the Second World War. He tried by legal means to join her there, but these attempts were in vain. After nine years of waiting for his emigration papers he was willing to take advantage of any opportunity. He had a friend who worked in a government office. She slipped Gerhard's emigration papers amongst others her employer was to sign. The next day Gerhard boarded a train for West Germany.
During his first weeks of freedom in Germany he plunged himself into his art. He sketched, painted, and sculpted as if he wanted to make up in a week what he had missed in all his previous years. Slowly Gerhard realized that he needed money for daily living. To practise veterinary medicine in Germany, however, he was required to repeat his studies. Not only did he have to repeat all those years at university, but it was also required that he repeat the last year of high school.
He started all over again. Within a year he completed his grade twelve and registered at the Justus Liebig University in Giessen to study veterinary medicine. At the same time he studied composition, content and forms of expression in the Faculty of Fine Arts at the university in Wurzburg am Main, as well as studies of art criticism, art history, and sculpture in Wurzburg, Heidelberg, Frankfurt and Giessen.
He received the Honnefer Model scholarship from the State of West Germany and was able to study without interruption from 1960 until 1967. He served a four-year apprenticeship with the sculptress Trude Vandory, a graduate of the Academy of Arts in Linz, Austria. Soon he had exhibited his sculptures in Giessen, Frankfurt and Berlin.
He graduated from the Justus Liebig University in 1967, again receiving a veterinary degree. He applied for the position of developmental assistance worker in Central America. Again the bureaucratic procedures were lengthy so he chose to apply for an immigration visa to Canada as well. His Canadian visa came through first.
Gerhard Juchum came to Vancouver, British Columbia in October, 1968. Here, while undertaking studies in philosophy, sociology and art, he prepared for yet another veterinarian examination to obtain Canadian accreditation. After qualifying for his license, he worked as a veterinarian in Vancouver for the federal government.
Gerhard was entirely self-sufficient. Although he repeatedly applied, he never received any grants or subsidies. He earned his living through his work for the government, and after-hours spent most of his money, time and creative forces on sculpting. Within four years he created seventy major works. He enriched the art world with about fifteen new sculptures every year.
In February, 1972, Vancouver had its first major introduction to Gerhard's work. Entitled "Ten Pieces," the exhibition was held in co-operation with The Playhouse Theatre Company
. Other works by Gerhard were occasionally exhibited at local galleries and art centres.
His works have been shown at the annual sculpture exhibitions of the
Federation of Canadian Artists since 1968, the Western Canada Art Association since 1973 and the
Sculptors' Society of British Columbia
since 1975. Gerhard was a member of each of these groups.
He loved Vancouver and its people and wished to make some repayment for the creativity which his adopted city had inspired in him. It was toward this goal that he tried for years to formally donate his sculptures to the City of Vancouver. An unsympathetic
Vancouver Parksboard bureaucracy would eventually come to thwart his philanthropy.
As an ardent protagonist of public involvement in art, he found some unusual ways of bringing works of art to public attention.
His execution and erection of The Spearfisher at a public beach was met with
general enthusiasm by park visitors, received front page coverage in the local press and
resulted in several guest appearances by Gerhard on television. Vancouver Parks Board
officials, however, did not appreciate the arrival of the sculpture on the beach without the
documented consent of Council. The Spearfisher however, did impress the
Council of Port Hardy on Vancouver Island, and so was shipped to them upon their request.
The Lovers I, surreptitiously mounted at English Bay Beach in 1972, was met
with the same Parks Board disapproval. At the request of the District of Port Alice, this
particular work can now be seen in Port Alice.
In 1973 the sculptor again decided to place another sculpture, The Lovers II,
in a public place. Two days later the statue was returned by the Vancouver Parks Board with
a message stating it would sue the next time he left a statue in a park. Later that year,
however, a Vancouver City Hall Art Committee approved the statue for placement at city hall. The Lovers II can be seen on the west lawn of Vancouver's City Hall. His
sculpture Fisher Hauling in the Net can be seen at VanDusen Botanical Garden.
The sculptor Gerhard Juchum lived in small frame-houses with his cat Cassandra, spending most
of his time sculpting in totally inadequate studio-sheds, until his early death.
Local newspapers reported that on July 30, 1977, a fire started in the Delta municipality of
the greater Vancouver area, in a peat bog on vacant land. Smoke warning signs were requested
for Highway 99, but Highway Department officials stated that they could not find an
appropriate sign. A few days later a government official suggested that resources should be
pooled to combat the spreading fire, but the local fire chief stated that he was not in need
On August 5, 1977, Highway 99 was shrouded in dense smoke and fog when two motorists were
killed in a mass collision. The police conducted an aerial survey before they extricated the
bodies. Gerhard Juchum, on his way to Vancouver Island for a weekend retreat, burned to
death in his car after the fuel tank of the truck which hit him from behind exploded and
started a fire.
Later that same day, warning signs were put up on Highway 99. Two charges of criminal
negligence causing death were laid against the truck driver.
The career and life of a most promising artist ended at the age of
James H.P. Wilkie who purchased one of Gerhard's sculptures early in his career described the artist as follows:
Gerhard Juchum was a sculptor and a Free Spirit. Through his work he exemplified his
constant endeavour to portray the human being as an emotionally structured being - a being
capable of reaching the goals of life through agonies and ecstasies, trials and tribulations
the sculptor had so often encountered in his own life.
He knew too well what it meant to start all over again against impossible odds. Stifled and
humbled, imprisoned for his beliefs, he became stronger as opposition and prejudice tried
ruthlessly to crush his spirit when he soared beyond all adversity in his vision for peace
and philosophical understanding.
Gerhard was a man of boundless energies, an artist with a passion for sculpture. He had a
great sense of humour and a broad mind capable of understanding, on an artistic level, all
those he met. He found beauty in all forms of man and nature.
Gerhard's legacy remains here with
us in his sculptures.