Terna was born in Vienna in 1923 and grew up in Prague. Starting in 1941, he was imprisoned in four Nazi concentration camps, including Terezin, where he began to make art, and Auschwitz and Dachau.
Following the war, Terna moved to Paris where he “informally studied” at the Academie de la Grande Chaumiere and the Academie Julien. There, according to his web site, “he was inspired by the work of the Cubists and post-Impressionists.”
Terna moved to New York in 1952 and began to infuse his art with textural elements. “Most of my work has some biblical reference,” Terna told the New York Jewish Week our “36 to Watch” questionnaire, “including stained glass windows in a synagogue in Panama and our own shul, the Kane Street Synagogue.”
In a 2019 New York Times review of “Place/Image/Object,” a three-person exhibition at the Jack Barrett Gallery on the Lower East Side, Terna’s work — “a series of perceptive ink drawings of trees, boats and buildings” — is characterized as the “fulcrum” of the show. “Though the style varies widely, Mr. Terna’s zeal in gathering visual details is leavened by the obvious joy he took in recording them,” the reviewer wrote.
Over the years, Terna’s work was collected by a variety of museums and institutions, including the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., the Albertina Collection in Vienna and Yad Vashem in Jerusalem.
Terna, who continued painting in Brooklyn into his late 90s, was also a speaker on the Holocaust in high schools and an active participant in Witness Theatre.
Terna is survived by his second wife, Rebecca Shiffman — whom he met in 1982 at an event for second-generation Holocaust survivors and married shortly thereafter — and their son, Daniel Terna.
His funeral will be held Sunday at 10 a.m. at the Kane Street Synagogue in Brooklyn and will be live-streamed on their web site.