A nonprofit, independent news source to inform, inspire, educate and connect the St. Louis Jewish community.

St. Louis Jewish Light

A nonprofit, independent news source to inform, inspire, educate and connect the St. Louis Jewish community.

St. Louis Jewish Light

A nonprofit, independent news source to inform, inspire, educate and connect the St. Louis Jewish community.

St. Louis Jewish Light

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How a Jewish kid from Clara Ave. became a ‘Picasso’ of nostalgia

The term “Renaissance man or woman” is one we should all aspire to be called at some point in our lives. It refers to someone exceptionally knowledgeable, skilled, and proficient in a wide range of fields or disciplines. Ed Farber is just such a person.

Let’s introduce you to him.

His personal website bio describes Farber as a ‘prominent artist and writer deeply rooted in the St. Louis community, where his art and literature intertwine seamlessly.’ It’s this seamless integration that is particularly compelling.

Journey towards art

Ed Farber

Born on March 14, 1932, at the old Jewish Hospital on Kingshighway, Ed Farber‘s upbringing on Clara Avenue in St. Louis deeply influenced his artistic vision, shaped by his Ukrainian immigrant roots and Orthodox Jewish traditions.

“Growing up on Clara, my home was filled with stories of the old country and bustling Jewish life in St. Louis,” Farber recalls. “My bubbe, ‘Bahba,’ was so devout (‘frum’) she wouldn’t eat at weddings, even when the rabbi partook. My zeyde, originally a groats dealer in the old country, became a junk dealer in St. Louis.”

The family home on Clara took on additional significance as Farber’s father, then a teenager, apprenticed as a paperhanger/painter. Initially residing in a small attic, he later purchased the entire house where the family lived together.

Farber had a childhood passion for drawing, painting, and writing.

“Art was my first love,” he recalls, “but writing came a close second.” His formal education took him to Harris Junior College and later the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, where he honed his skills in both fields.

Art and living

Farber’s professional journey began in advertising, where he combined his skills in art and writing. His tenure at Edison Brothers Stores and later as the owner of Farber-Fulbright, Inc. showcased his ability to blend creativity with business acumen. Yet, it was his return to personal art and writing that truly defines his Renaissance legacy.

“My painting tends to be realistic, but I’m not a slave to realism,” Farber explains.

Influenced by impressionism, his works often capture the vibrant essence of urban life, drawing inspiration from the Clara Ave. neighborhood of his youth. Farber’s paintings vividly capture the essence of mid-20th century Jewish St. Louis. His series “Streetscapes” and “Echoes of Another Time” serve as nostalgic snapshots of Jewish life and culture, resonating with personal and historical significance.

Grandpa’s Back Porch #1 by Edward Farber

Specifically, “Grampa’s Back Porch” depicts a quiet moment of his Jewish immigrant life in St. Louis, evoking a delightful and peaceful connection with the viewer.

“It’s my memory of my Zeyde’s back porch and the view from that porch on Clara Avenue, although the people in it (including the Zeyde figure) are totally my imagination,” said Farber. “The painting, which has won a number of prizes, evokes memories of a similar neighborhood where they or their parents used to live.”

Jewishness in his art

In his four-piece series “Echoes of Another Time” Farber was inspired by his own research into his family history and recalling the shtetl way of life that disappeared with the Holocaust.

Evening Prayers

“Mixed in with that are my memories of going to the synagogue in the neighborhood with my Zeyde. My painting of ‘Evening Prayers’ is a combination of both as is the painting, ‘Rabbi with Torah,’” said Farber. “For that painting, depicting the prayer shawl, including the Hebrew lettering and the Torah elements, was both a challenge and a fond memory.”

Rabbi with Torah

Writing it down

Growing up on Clara Avenue, his family were not big readers, so books were scarce. But the books Farber did find led him to love adventure stories like those by Jack London or Kipling’s Captains Courageous, the first book he ever borrowed from a library.

“And I was a pretty good writer too. High school compositions came easy to me. And I began to play with writing short stories. Art was my first love, but writing came a close second,” remembers Farber.

One of his first stories, “The Elixir of the Incas,” was bought by Cricket Magazine, a prominent children’s publication, and became the seed from which two later novels would grow.

Since 2000, Farber has authored six books, including his humorous memoir “Looking Back with a Smile” and the short story collection “Echoes of Clara Avenue.”

“I have two books now in the works. The first is entitled ‘The Rover,’ and another book of short stories, ‘Gambler’s Luck and Other Short Stories,'” said Farber.

For more information about Ed Farber and his artwork, visit www.farberart.com and explore his collection at FineArtAmerica.

 

 

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About the Contributor
Jordan Palmer
Jordan Palmer, Chief Digital Content Officer
Jordan worked at KSDK from 1995 to 2020. Jordan is a three-time Emmy award winner who produced every kind of show from news to specials during his tenure, creating Show Me St. Louis, The Cardinal Nation Show. He started ksdk.com in 2001 and won three Edward R. Murrow Awards for journalistic and website excellence in 2010, 2014 and 2020. Jordan has been married for 25 years and is the father of two college students. He is an avid biker, snowboarder, and beer lover. He created the blog drink314.com, focusing on the St. Louis beer community in 2015. Jordan has an incredible and vast knowledge of useless information and is the grandson of a Cleveland bootlegger.