Fritz Ascher was born on 17 October 1893 as the son of the dental surgeon and businessman Dr. Hugo Ascher (born Neugard 27 July 1859 - died 18 August 1922 Berlin) and Minna Luise Ascher (born Schneider; Berlin 17 January 1867 - died 17 October 1938 Berlin) in Berlin. On 8 October 1894 his sister Charlotte Hedwig was born, and on 11 June 1897 his sister Margarete Lilly (Grete). Born Jewish, Hugo Ascher converts to Protestantism with his three children in 1901, his wife remains Jewish. From 1908 the family lived in a villa in Niklasstraße 21-23 in Zehlendorf, which at that time did not formally belong to Berlin yet, with main house, worker’s and garden house and garage, built by the prominent architect Professor Paul Schultze-Naumburg.
Fritz Ascher's talent showed early. At the age of 16 he studied with Max Liebermann, who gave him the "Künstlereinjährige," an art diploma, and recommended him to the art academy Königsberg. There the artist befriended among others Eduard Bischoff, who painted a portrait of him in 1912.
Around 1913 Ascher was back in Berlin, where he found his artistic language, surrounded by artists like Ludwig Meidner, Jakob Steinhardt and Emil Nolde. He studied in the painting schools of Adolf Meyer and Kurt Agthe and befriended Franz Domscheit (Pranas Domšaitis), with whom he presumably traveled right before World War I to Norway and met Edvard Munch in Oslo. During a longer stay in Bavaria and Munich in 1919 Domscheit drew into Ascher’s sketchbook - Ascher had drawn a portrait of his friend in 1916. Ascher met the artists of the Blue Rider and befriended the artists of the satirical German weekly magazine Simplicissimus, among others Gustav Meyrink, Alfred Kubin, George Grosz and Käthe Kollwitz. Like those of the artists and writers surrounding him, many of his works from these years have an emphatic and expressive religiosity. In this atmosphere his interest in old sagas and myths was kindled. "The Loner (Der Vereinsamte)" or "Golem" (1916, today in the collection of the Jewish Museum Berlin) shows Ascher's powerful expressionistic pictorial language and interest in the human condition.
When Hitler came to power, Ascher’s life changed dramatically. He was reported to the NSDAP as politically suspect, and from 1933 he was forbidden to work. Arrested and brought to Sachsenhausen concentration camp during Kristallnacht (November 9-10, 1938), he was moved to Potsdam prison in January, and freed six months later through the efforts of Gerhard Grassmann, a lawyer friend, and Probst Heinrich Grueber, an Evangelical Protestant minister. For two years he was permitted to live openly, but was required to regularly report to the authorities. When the officer to whom he reported warned him of deportation in 1942, he turned to Martha Grassmann (b. Fenske; Berlin January 16, 1881 - January 24, 1971), who had been a close friend of his mother. For three years she hid him in the partially bombed-out villa Lassenstr. 28 in the wealthy Grunewald neighborhood of Berlin. During these years Ascher wrote poems that give a glimpse into the artist’s innermost feelings.
On April 29, 1945 Berlin-Grunewald was liberated by the Allies. Fritz Ascher stayed in Berlin-Grunewald and resumed his work, mainly in solemn solitude. Again and again phases of tremendous creative productivity were interrupted by times of depression, self-talk and sleeplessness, in which he was not approachable.
As an artist he now came into his own, searching for and developing forms suiting his genuine feelings. The subject of his paintings shifted from figuration to landscape. Living close to the Grunewald, Berlin’s expansive city forest, the artist observed and painted nature in different light, at different times of day and seasons, which he re-conceived in his studio. He created powerful images of trees and meadows, sunrises and sunsets, all devoid of human presence, in which sun and light are a dominant force. Very often the light is depicted in a silvery white of mystical quality that recalls Rembrandt and El Greco. The trees have mostly heavy, strong trunks, often stand isolated or in pairs, and less often in larger groups. The horizontal line, which is never straight, is often elevated. Dramatic moments are intensified by expressive colors. The compositions are innovative in light, color and rhythm. Trees and sun seem to have symbolic meaning. The formally inventive and atmospherically dense landscapes are soul paintings that reflect Ascher’s complex emotional life. With their expressive colors, bold brushstrokes and reckless surface treatment Ascher found a powerful voice that enriched and continues to enrich the artistic landscape of post-war Germany.
Fritz Ascher died on March 26, 1970.