Last month I read an inspiring article in The New York Times about Tim Gunn's weekly ritual in which he goes to the Metropolitan Museum every Sunday. I decided to create my own version of this type of ritual. So I became a member of the Seattle Art Museum and have started going on Fridays.
Two artworks (shown below) that I've been really drawn to are works by the German artist Otto Freundlich (1878 - 1943). I've stared at these two pieces a lot. I just love his use of shape, pattern, color and composition.
I decided to do a little bit of web research (aka Wikipedia) to learn more about him and because I love art history and biographies. What I found was really interesting and tragic.
Freundlich was a German-Jewish painter/sculptor and one of the early abstract artists being part of the Orphism movement. He lived, studied and created in Paris in the early 1900s along with what seems like every other great Western creator of his time. He moved back to Germany in 1914.
During WWII his work was deemed inappropriate by the Nazis and confiscated. His works were displayed unflatteringly in the Nazi "Degenerate Art" exhibition in 1937 and several of them were destroyed after. From a little more digging, I found out that many of my favorite modern artists (Picasso, Ernst, Klee, Léger) were included in this "degenerate" category and had their work destroyed. Some German artists were fortunate enough to find exile in other countries during this time. Freundlich was not, and in 1943 he was captured and executed in a Nazi concentration camp.
I had some knowledge about Hitler's campaign to destroy art and books during WWII from art history class and having read Monuments Men. But finding out about Freundlich's tragic story gives me a deeper understanding of the talent and the art that was lost during that time period. I will celebrate Freundlich and these two artworks that much more.
And I look forward to finding out more about other artists and their work from my new Friday ritual.