Gerhard Skrobek, 85; Hummel artist

COBURG, Germany – Gerhard Skrobek, the premier postwar artisan of Hummel figurines, died on July 1 at his home in Coburg. He was 85. Skrobek, who had leukemia, died from complications of heart surgery, said Tiffany Fox, a family spokeswoman.

Until his retirement in 2002, Skrobek was the master sculptor at the Goebel porcelain company in Rodental, Germany, which manufactures the rosy-cheeked figurines. There he updated classic designs and oversaw the production of new ones.

Hummel figurines were inspired by the drawings of a Bavarian woman named Berta Hummel, who took the name Sister Maria Innocentia after she became a Franciscan nun. Starting in 1935, Goebel transformed her images into three-dimensional figures, manufacturing them under her supervision until her death in 1946. Since then the company has designed its figurines based on the trove of drawings she left behind.

Hummel figurines have been issued in more than 1,000 different styles, including Nativity figures, all manner of angels, patriotic characters, practitioners of a range of professions, even brides and grooms. Since their inception, more than 20 million figurines have been sold worldwide, said Carrie Kulak, the North American director of the M.I. Hummel Club, the official collectors’ organization.

Skrobek was born on May 22, 1922, in Leobschutz, in Upper Silesia. He studied art in Berlin before joining the Goebel company in 1951. Besides working in the porcelain factory, Skrobek also served as a roving ambassador for Hummel.