Gribbroek’s early connection to New Mexico was with an Isleta Pueblo family in 1929, with whom he lived off and on for several years. Upon the occasion of seeing Lumpkins and Brooks Willis sketching at the pueblo, Gribbroek approached them and introduced himself. This was the beginning of his long and close friendship with Lumpkins. He moved to Taos late in 1936 and enrolled in Bisttram’s Taos School of Art, where he became acquainted H.T. Pierce and Florence Miller. (He later introduced his friend Lumpkins to Bisttram.) Gribbroek’s talent established him, along with Pierce and Miller, as one of Bisttram’s best students, and as such, he was asked to join the TPG.
From late 1939 to early 1940, Gribbroek taught art and painted portraits in Amarillo, Texas, during which time Jonson doubted “that any transcendental painting [would] materialize through him….” By spring 1940, Gribbroek returned to Taos and continued to participate in the TPG exhibition schedule; however, paintings that he completed during the TPG period were few and have since disappeared.
In June 1938, Morang wrote, “Gribbroek forces the color in his non-objective compositions to blend like colored metal… has caught the interplay of unrelated elements… [and] calls to mind some of the constructivists, plus a greater emotional intensity.” Later that year Morang wrote, “Robbert Gribbroek, one of the best draftsmen in America, has command of geometrical forms second to few…” his praise continued into 1939 with, “Gribbroek’s works are startling in their exactness and precision [and]…touch on the order of the universe or planetary movement.”
Shortly after the start of World War II, Gribbroek sought work associated with war production at Douglas Aircraft in Los Angeles, where he, like Pierce, secured employment as a technical illustrator. As excellent draftsperson, Gribbroek was later briefly employed at Disney studio. He eventually became the co-founder of Looney Tunes at Warner Brothers in Hollywood and was their art director for eighteen years. He returned to Taos as often as he could between 1942 and 1960, staying each time until he ran out of money. At Warner Brothers he developed the backgrounds for the famous Tweety Bird, Roadrunner, Sylvester the Cat, and other characters. The residents of Taos regarded him as a glamorous figure because he circulated among the famous movie stars (he himself was cast in four feature films, including Candy with Richard Burton), raised chinchillas for the fur industry, and contributed to designing celebrated cartoon characters.
As a member of the art community, Gribbroek exhibited at the Museum of Fine Arts in Santa Fe and the Blue Door Gallery in Taos, and he joined the Taos Art Association in 1953. From 1965 to 1970 Gribbroek lived in Barcelona and Sitgas, Spain, where he acted in thirty-five TV commercials and in several films. In August 1970 he returned to his beloved Taos to focus on art, but unfortunately, his death the following year cut short his renewed efforts.
Garman, Ed. “Robert Gribbroek.” Vision and Spirit: The Transcendental Painting Group. Albuquerque: Jonson Gallery of the University of New Mexico, 1997. 46-47. Print.