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Signature Profiles

William Werrbach


"Three-Fingers Mountain" the Cascade Range

Mt. Rainier: Enumclaw Valley Farm

Artist Bio

William H. Werrbach, a native Seattleite, was born in 1925. He was raised in Northeast Seattle, and graduated from Roosevelt High School. During his school years, William developed a very strong interest in drawing and painting. Thanks to parents who believed in nurturing his special talent, William was allowed to pursue his passion of art through childhood. As a young student he received personalized instruction from University of Washington Professors Ambrose and Viola Patterson as well as Walter Reese of the Cornish School. While a teenager, he placed fourth in a nationwide competition judged by the world-famous artist Norman Rockwell. As a senior in High School, he worked as an artist for a defense contractor illustrating manuals for military use. 

By the time of his high school graduation, William Werrbach had received enviable recognition as an artist. His future in art was uncertain, however, because WWII was still raging in the Pacific and the Nation was still running in full wartime mode. As soon as William graduated from high school, he joined the U. S. Navy where he was assigned to an art unit that designed posters and instruction manuals. Before the war ended, he served with amphibious forces in the South Pacific aboard the U.S.S. Rawlins APA226. After two and one half years of active duty, William Werrbach was honorably discharged from WWII service at the well seasoned age of 20 years and was suddenly faced by a whole new post-war era in America.

The future for a very young artist was still uncertain, but the Nation's optimism was rebounding. Having really never considered any other career, and against well-meaning advice, he decided his future would simply have to hinge around his artistic interests. Two weeks after discharge, he went to work in the art department of a large printing firm. He made another bold decision: to marry his high school sweetheart, Emma Jean Steen, to whom he is still happily married after 52 years. "Bill and Jean" Werrbach raised three children, Donn Robert, William Kent, and Julie Ann.

Newly married and filled with hope, William applied to the Art Students League in New York, considered to be one of the world's top Fine Art schools. He was immediately accepted. There, he studied with recognized artist-instructors including the world famous painter Yasuo Kuniyoshi whose style and outlook William found particularly influencing. After completing instruction at the League, William and Jean returned home to Seattle with high expectations.

Even with such prestigious schooling it became apparent that there was not a lot of paying work available for a young Fine Artist and William went to work designing for a silk screen printer. The turning point of his career came on the day of his first son's birth. Jean was still in the hospital when William announced that he had just quit his job. He was going into business for himself! William opened up his first studio that same week and developed relationships with all the local advertising agencies. His art studio grew quickly, and within a few years he built a small staff of artists into the largest graphic design studio in the Northwest where they produced award winning art for major accounts.

Though William's deepest interest remained in Fine Arts, his willingness to embrace commercial art and bring to it his full passion and talent in graphic design brought him an illustrious career. He at last retired from that frenetic world in 1994, and now devotes his talents to painting human interest Fine Art.

Throughout his life, William Werrbach's presence in the Fine Arts community has remained active. He served two terms on the Washington State Arts Commission and over ten years on the Art Advisory Board of the Seattle Community College. William has always been in demand as a teacher and lecturer. Among his credits are teaching at the Burnley School of Art, and lecturing at such esteemed schools as the University of Washington, Central Washington University, Spokane Community College, and at High School Vocational Conferences. In addition, William Werrbach has been interviewed on radio, his paintings featured on television, and he is the subject of various written articles. He is a Life Member of the Art Students League of New York, the Puget Sound Group of Northwest Painters, and the Society of Professional Graphic Artists.

William Werrbach's art has been exhibited at many venues over the years including the Frye Art Museum, the Seattle Art Museum, Henry Art Gallery, Museum of History and Industry, Nordic Heritage Museum, Matszke Gallery, Mountain Gallery, Kinorn Gallery, Century 21 Gallery, Ellensberg Gallery, LaConner Museum, Bellevue Arts Fair, Jaid Gallery, Kirsten Gallery, Harbor Gallery, and the Stillwater Gallery. He has been honored to act as juror at the Edmonds Art Festival, Kinorn Gallery, Puyallup Fair, Spokane Community College, and the Seattle Community College, among many others.

The Fry Art Museum has presented William H. Werrbach with the prestigious Adolphe Monticelli Award. Recently, William Werrbach was one of four persons nominated for the National Walter Hortens Award given in recognition for a lifetime of effort to improve artists rights and working conditions.

William and Jean Werrbach maintain their home in North Seattle where William maintains his artist's studio and devotes much of his time to painting various Pacific Northwest subjects.