German artists leave Nazi night to mark postwar era

When World War II ended and the Nazis fell from power, artists no longer felt threatened that their art would be labeled degenerate and a new period began for the more avant-garde currents of German art. Painters Emil Schumacher and Fred Thieler were both part of this postwar artistic rejuvenation. They reclaimed abstract art and became two of the pioneers of the German abstract expressionist style. Their contribution to the development of German postwar art is the focus of an exhibition which is currently on at the Thessaloniki Center of the National Bank Cultural Foundation and is jointly organized with the Goethe Institute. What makes works by Schumacher and Thieler the subject of a single exhibition is the artists’ shared interest in the act of painting. Like most artists working in an abstract expressionist style, both in Europe and the United States, Schumacher and Thieler, although not identical in their views, treated the painted surface as having an energy of its own and conceived painting not as a finished image but as a process in which the action of painting plays a vital role. Of roughly the same age (Schumacher was four years older than Thieler), they also belonged to the same artistic milieu. Schumacher, who initially was a member of «Quadriga» (a group of German abstract painters that worked in the German equivalent of art informel), later joined «Zen 49,» a group of abstract painters founded by Willi Baumesteir. Thieler had artistic ties both with Baumesteir and the other members. Both had lived through the artistic restrictions imposed by the Nazi regime, Thieler perhaps more than Schumacher, because of his mother’s Jewish descent. Barred from continuing his studies in medicine and chemistry, Thieler then attended the private painting school of Hein Koenig, but soon left because of Koenig’s Nazi beliefs. He then joined the resistance, and together with Mac Zimmermann, became involved in anti-fascist propaganda. Thieler worked with large canvases, often moving over the surface of the painting and leaving tracks and footprints. He poured paint on the canvas but controlled its run by sometimes placing pieces of paper on the canvas, which he took away once the paint had been poured. He also did some public works including, late in his career, the painting of the ceiling of the Residentztheater in Munich. What Thieler and Schumacher also had in common was the fact that they were art professors. Thieler taught at the Academy of Fine Arts in Berlin during the 1960s and throughout the ’70s and Schumacher taught briefly at the School of Fine Arts in Hamburg in the late ’50s and later in Karlsruhe. They are both remembered as two of the most important postwar artists in Germany not only because of their work, but also their intellectual views on art. National Bank Cultural Foundation (108 Vas. Olga, Thessaloniki 2310.295.170), to May 11.

Subscribe to our Newsletters

Enter your information below to receive our weekly newsletters with the latest insights, opinion pieces and current events straight to your inbox.

By signing up you are agreeing to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.