This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000
Schulim Krimper (1893-1971), cabinet-maker, was born on 28 July 1893 at Sereth, Bukovina, Austria-Hungary (Rumania), youngest of five children of Rabbi Jacob Wolf Neutuch. Orphaned at the age of 9, Schulim lived with his eldest married sister for three years before being apprenticed to a local cabinet-maker. He completed his articles and remained with his master until the outbreak of World War I, in which he served with the Austro-Hungarian artillery.
After the war Krimper travelled through central Europe, working in such centres as Prague and Vienna. In the early 1920s he settled in Berlin. As a Jew, he suffered from the rise to power of Hitler and the National Socialists and was thwarted in his plans to set up his own business. He married Elsbeth Leipziger on 25 January 1938 in Berlin. By August he was employed in the joinery of a training centre for Jews who wished to emigrate.
In November the Krimpers were granted permission to emigrate to Australia. En route they spent six months in England where Schulim helped to supervise the building of a refugee camp. They arrived in Melbourne on 17 August 1939. Krimper was naturalized in 1945. The war and immediate postwar years were difficult for him, but his friendship with Robert Haines, assistant-director of the National Gallery of Victoria, led the gallery to acquire two of his major cabinets in 1948, to an important exhibition at Georges Gallery in 1951 and to another at the Rockefeller Centre, New York, in 1956. A retrospective exhibition followed at the N.G.V. in 1959.
During the 1950s and 1960s Krimper was Melbourne's premier supplier of custom-made furniture in the modern style. His ability to reveal the beauties of his timbers was legendary, as was the finesse of construction of his furniture. He was the first cabinet-maker in Victoria to demand—and receive—for his craft the respect which had previously been accorded only to painters and sculptors.
Even in his earliest days in Melbourne a certain mystique surrounded his name. Many of his customers—often fellow immigrants—were in awe of him, and his demeanour did little to put them at ease. When they visited his St Kilda workshop he was rarely to be found at work. Eventually he emerged from the office, wearing a smock or dustcoat, a French beret and—when the mood took him—a monocle. He liked to be known simply by his surname.
Krimper suffered his first heart attack in the mid-1960s. Although his output had been steadily declining since the peak in the late 1950s, when he employed six assistants, he continued working every day until his death. Survived by his wife and daughter, he died on 18 August 1971 at St Kilda and was buried in Springvale cemetery. The N.G.V. held a memorial exhibition in 1975. His work is represented in the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, the art galleries of Queensland and South Australia, and the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney.
Terence Lane, 'Krimper, Schulim (1893–1971)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/krimper-schulim-10765/text19087, accessed 26 May 2013.
This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000