Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Three friends of Werner Drewes

I'm currently writing a piece on Werner Drewes for Wikipedia. He did his military service in the bloody battles of the Great War's Western Front and made the horrors of that experience tolerable by means of his sketchbook, a copy of Goethe's Faust, and a volume of Nietzsche. After the war he fell in with some interesting fellows while studying to become a professional artist.

One of them was the painter Heinrich Vogeler. Vogeler had fought on the Eastern Front. He subsequently joined the German communist party and was a member of Workers' and Soldiers' Council of the Bremen Soviet Republic during the abortive revolution of 1918. In 1919 he founded a socialist utopian experiment and artists' commune in which Drewes participated for a time. During the 1920s he traveled to the USSR on two occasions and, after the rise of the Nazi party, emigrated there in 1931. Threatened with Soviet persecution for his avant-garde beliefs, he changed his style from expressionist to Socialist-Realist and managed to survive when many friends did not. As the German invasion began to threaten Moscow, Soviet authorities deported him to Kazakhstan and put him to work in one of the labor gangs constructing a hydro-electric dam. There he died, destitute and malnourished, in 1942.

Another friend was the artist William Wauer. Drewes bought his painting "Blutrausch" (bloodlust) with money he'd saved from a job at the Berlin gas works. As well as painter, Wauer was a publisher, art critic, feature editor and illustrator. He published the monthly journal "Quickborn," produced and directed plays and ran his own movie company. In 1911, he achieved fame for his staging of "Die vier Toten der Fiammetta," a pantomime by Herwarth Walden. Wauer wrote extensively about expressionist art and, between 1924 and 1933 when it was shut down by the Nazis, he headed the "International Association of Expressionists, Cubists, Futurists, and Constructivists" (later named Die Abstrakten). He was also an accomplished sculptor. Although the Nazis condemned his work as degenerate and banned him from cultural activity, he was able to remain in Germany during World War II and lived out the rest of his life there.



Herwarth Walden is third and last in this short account of Drewes's friends. Born Georg Levin, Walden took his surname from the famous book by Henry Thoreau. Best known as editor and publisher of the avant-garde magazine, Der Sturm, he was also a musician, composer, author, playwright, bookseller, and gallery owner. It was at his gallery that Drewes saw and purchased Wauer's painting. Like Vogeler, Walden joined the KPD and, in 1932, fled to Moscow to escape the Gestapo. Unlike Vogeler, he did not abandon his passion for avant-garde art and literature and in consequence was attacked as a fascistic purveyor of degenerate art. In 1941 he was arrested and soon after died in a Soviet prison.

1 comment:

Deniz said...

Glad to see you back! Yippee :-)