"I'd rather be known as a painter who acts than as an actress who paints," says Elke Sommer.
After her illustrious movie career and her marriage in 1964 to an American journalist she settled down in Beverly Hills in a large house with a huge living room with tempting bare walls. Elke started to paint in earnest using anything at hand for a canvas. Some of her early works were on her husband's shirt cardboards, on wrapping paper and boards. Only a few were on canvas but they all had a central theme: they were a projection of her childhood combined with fantasies about the way life should be. The illustrious Italian painter Amen, who was then living in Los Angeles, helped her to develop the style for which she is now so well known.
On sunny days Elke who is a nature lover painted in the nude in her enclosed backyard. She had discovered acrylics and worked without an easel. She layed the canvas flat on the ground or on the living room floor. Soon the walls of the living room were hung with her works. Friends who saw them suggested she have a one woman show. That first show in 1965 at the McKenzie Galleries in Beverly Hills was a success. She sold eighteen of thirty paintings and local art critics were generous with their acclaim. Her biggest compliment, however, came when she was told that a man who bought one of her large canvases asked about the artist. He didn't know that Elke Sommer was also star of seventy feature films.
Since that first showing, Elke has had thirty-nine woman shows at such prominent galleries as: The California Museum of Art, Science and Industry; Beach Nash Gallery, Beverly Hills; Schumacher Galleries, Munich; Bayerischer Hof, Munich; Galeria Del Arte Moderna, Rome; Kunsthaus, Berlin; Marshall Fields, Chicago; Center Art Gallery, Honolulu; Mid-Town Gallery, Chicago. Her most recent show in April 1998 at Richard Danskin Galleries, Palm Desert, CA.
In 1988 she was also commissioned to do a painting of Stockholm for the Norway Chamber of Commerce. She also starred in a widely acclaimed series of instructional half-hour shows on painting for PBS called "Painting with Elke".
Critics have always given Elke fulsome praise but she is more interested in public acceptance. "In each of Elke's painting the people are in group contact, physically close or touching and relating to each other. That's what life is all about."