Fred Scherer was born in Queens, New York on March 1, 1915 and grew up in South Ozone Park, NY. Starting in his teens, he was mentored by his elder brother Bill, who taught him how to draw the landscape and paint in oils. They often went out to sketch and paint in Cold Spring Harbor. During the Depression, to help earn money for his family, Scherer left high school and went to work painting houses with his brother Bill.
When Scherer was 19, luck intervened: a family friend heard that the American Museum of Natural History was looking for a young apprentice artist. He applied with a painting and clay model of a polar bear and got the job.
In 1934 Scherer was trained under George Peterson to learn how to make accessories such as plants, rocks and trees for the Museum’s dioramas. During this time he also worked in the anthropology department restoring archeological objects of endlessly diverse materials such as wood, stone, metal, tapestry, bone and ceramics.
Scherer went on to work for the museum for 38 years, painting backgrounds for over fifteen dioramas that are still on display in The Chapman Memorial Bird Hall, The African Hall and The North American Hall. He was fortunate to study and work with such great landscape artists as James Perry Wilson, his prime mentor, as well as William R. Leigh, Francis Lee Jaques, Bellmore Brown and Carl Rungius. During lunch hours, James Perry Wilson and Scherer would wander through Central Park studying the landscape, watching the colors of nature, and the effects of light. In 1967, Scherer created a Peruvian desert diorama at the Worlds’ Fair in New York.
After retiring in 1972 from the museum, Scherer and his wife, painter Cicely Aikman moved to Friendship, Maine. He worked for ten years as an art consultant for the Maine State Museum in Augusta and painted approximately six backgrounds for their natural history groups. In 2005, Scherer and Aikman established their new home and studio in Vermont where he continued his lifelong activities of painting and invention.
Fred Scherer has exhibited at The New York Historical Society; West Beth Gallery, NYC, NY; Farnsworth Museum, Rockland, ME; Harbor Square Gallery, Rockland, ME and the Portland Museum of Art. In 2002 Scherer had a one-person show at the Round Top Center for the Arts in Damariscotta, Maine. In 2011, his scratchboard work received an Honorable Mention Award in the Biennial Regional Exhibition at the Thorne-Sagendorph Gallery, Keene, NH.
Scherer’s work is included in public collections such as the Advent Christian Church, Friendship, ME; Maine State Museum; and The American Museum of Natural History in New York City, as well as many private collections. Three months short of his 98th birthday, Fred Scherer died on November 25, 2013 in Townshend, VT.