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WERNER DREWES
1899 - 1985
Werner Drewes, painter, printmaker, and teacher was born in Canig, Germany in 1899. His father, a Lutheran Minister, expected him to channel his artistic talents into a career as an architect, but Werner chose instead the vagabond life an artist. After being drafted into the army and serving his term in the front line in France, Werner was admitted to the Bauhaus in 1921 where he studied under such artists as Klee, Ltten, and Muche. Later, he traveled extensively through Italy and Spain to study such masters as Tintoretto, Velasque, and El Greco. Werner survived by selling prints as postcards and an occasional commissioned piece.  After marrying Margaret Schrobsdorf, a German nurse working in the Azores, they continued to travel throughout South America, North America, and Asia. Traveling was always an important source of inspiration for his work.

In 1930, Werner emigrated to New York City with his wife and three young sons. Germany, under Hitler, had become too restrictive an environment for an abstract artist. In New York City, despite the Depression, Werner joined other Bauhaus artist such as Mondrian and Feininger to make a living as an artist. This group became the core of the American Abstract Artists group. Werner taught at the Columbia University, worked on the design of the 1939 Worlds Fair building, and had shows at the Museum of Modern Art, the Kleeman Gallery, and elsewhere.  In 1946 he accepted a tenured position at Washington University in St. Louis. With his sons grown, Werner's financial burdens were somewhat erased and he was able to be more creative and productive and further fine-tune his unique printmaking techniques and use of color. His wife too, was able to pursue her own art form of weaving and rug making until her death in 1965.

Werner remarried a jeweler and fellow professor from Washington University, Mary Louise Lischer. They moved to Point Pleasant in Bucks County, Pennsylvania to enjoy a rural retirement yet still be near the art hub of New York City. Still lifes and landscapes, many with an abstract overtone, depict this era of his life. Colors gained a brilliance and balance. However, long winters led them to move once again. This time to Reston, Virginia. Here he continued his teaching, showing, creating, and traveling into his 85th year. Arthritis forced a new form of artistic expression: cut-out collages to add to his still growing collection of oils and prints. The Rose Catalog of his prints was published and several videos were taped of him in action and discussing his ideas and methods. He continued to show at major galleries in Germany, Turkey, and in the United States. The Smithsonian held a special show attributing his 65 years as a printmaker at the Museum for American Artists. To the very end, he cut his multiple plate color woodcuts, rubbed his prints by hand with a stylus and added stylistic innovations.

Today, this acclaimed artist has works shown at most major museums throughout the United States and in Europe.

Biographical Notes:

  • Born in Canig, Germany, 1899
  • Studied architecture at the Technische Hochschule in Berlin-Charlottenburg and at the Stuttgart School of Arts and Crafts in Stuttgart, 1919-1920
  • Studied design at the Bauhaus (Weimar) with Klee, Itten and Schlemmer, Weimar, Germany, 1921-1922
  • To Italy and Spain to study the Old Masters, 1923-1924
  • Worked way around the world as portrait painter and printmaker, 1924-1927
  • Studied again at the Bauhaus (Dessau) with Kandisky and Feininger, 1927-1928
  • Emigrated to New York City, United States, 1930
  • Became a citizen of the United States and joined the American Artists Congress, 1936
  • Founding member of the American Abstract Artists, 1937
  • Instructor in painting, drawing and printmaking, Columbia University, New York, 1937-1940
  • Technical Supervisor of the Graphic Arts Project of the WPA, New York, 1941-1942
  • Instructor in Design, Institute of Design, Chicago, 1946
  • Professor of Design and Director of First Year Program, School of Fine Arts, Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri, 1946-1965
  • Worked with Max Beckmann, 1947-1949
  • Retired from teaching and moved to Bucks County, Pennsylvania, 1965
  • Moved to Reston, Virginia, 1972
  • Visiting Professor at George Mason Community College, Virginia
  • One man show at National Museum for American Artists, 1985
  • Died in Reston, Virginia, 1985

Exhibitions: 

More than eighty, one-man shows in the United States, Europe, and South America

  • 1931 Societe Anonyme, Buffalo, New York
  • 1936 Societe Anonyme, Black Mountain College, North Carolina
  • 1959 25th Anniversary National Fine Prints Competition, AAA, New York City
  • 1965 Retrospective, Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri
  • 1984 65 Years of Printmaking, National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
  • 1985 Memorial Exhibition, AAA, New York City
  • 1994-1995 Werner Drewes: Paintings and Works on Paper, AAA, New York City
  • 1999 Americans and Expatriates: Nonobjective Painting in America 1920-1950, David Findlay Fine Art, New York City
  • 2003 Werner Drewes 1899-1985, Tobey C. Moss Gallery, Los Angeles, California
  • 2003 Werner Drewes: A Bauhaus Artist 1899-1985, Lakewood, Colorado

Collections:

Paintings, prints, and watercolors are owned and displayed by many public collections

  • Museum of Modern Art, New York
  • Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • Guggenheim Museum
  • Brooklyn Museum
  • Busch-Reisinger Museum, Cambridge, Mass.
  • Fogg Museum
  • Boston Museum of Fine Arts
  • Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Conn.
  • Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn.
  • State Museum, New Jersey, Trenton
  • National Gallery, Washington, D.C.
  • Department of State, Washington, D.C.
  • National Collection of Fine Arts
  • Library of Congress
  • Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, Philadelphia
  • St. Louis Museum of Art
  • Washington University, St. Louis
  • Chicago Art Institute
  • Cleveland Museum of Art
  • National Museum of American Artists, Smithsonian
  • Achenbach Collection, San Francisco, Palace of the Legion of Honor
  • San Francisco Museum of Art
  • Los Angeles County Museum
  • Phillips Collection
  • Baltimore Museum of Art
  • Colorado University Art Collection
  • Georgetown University Art Collection
  • Mitchner Museum, Doylestown, PA

And many other universities and libraries, as well as museums in Frankfurt, Cologne, Hamburg, Karlsruhe, Stuttgart, Berlin, Paris, London, and Jerusalem

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