Ernest “Erni” Cabat, artist, teacher, and entrepreneur was born in New York City in 1914. He moved to Tucson in 1943 with his wife Rose, a ceramist.
Having received his art education from the Art Students League and Cooper Union Institute in New York City, Mr. Cabat, along with Norvel Gill, co-founded Tucson’s first advertising agency, Cabat-Gill Advertising in 1945. He also produced game shows and commercials in the early days of television here. He left the advertising business in the mid-sixties to devote his time to painting and working with his wife in ceramics.
In his later years, he primarily produced gouache (opaque water color) paintings of a variety of subjects. His works were known for their whimsy, intricacy, vivid color, and social commentary.
He also illustrated and wrote seven children’s books and six books on flowers of the Southwest, most notably The Flowering Southwest: Wildflowers, Cacti, and Succulents in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, and Utah, with text by Rodney Engard, former director of the Tucson Botanical Gardens. Erni took on the task of painting each flower not only in full bloom, but also in budding, fruiting and dying stages. He recorded each plant’s side elevation, with leaf and leaf attachment. Faithfully chronicling the lifespans of desert flowers was a challenge to Erni whose typical work consisted of fanciful, imaginative, and not “staying within the lines” art. His biggest “shock” was that there are plants that bloom for a few hours and then die.
The result of his personal challenge is 48 luscious and colorful paintings of desert flowers, many done in the field. They are painted with gouache directly on colored French watercolor paper.