October 23 – December 3, 2017 “Beauteous Strivings” Fritz Ascher – Works on Paper
Fritz Ascher, Two Trees, c. 1958. Photo Malcolm Varon ©2017 Bianca Stock
For the first time in the United States, this exhibition shows works on paper created by the German Expressionist Fritz Ascher (1893-1970) after 1945. With these landscapes, he radically departed from the figural compositions he created during the Weimar years. At the same time, he built on his Expressionist visual language of vigorous brushstrokes and expressive colors.
Born 1893 in Berlin to the dentist and businessman Hugo Ascher and Minna Luise (born Schneider), the artist’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 in Königsberg. Soon thereafter, back in Berlin, he studied with Lovis Corinth, Adolf Meier and Kurt Agthe. Around artists like Ludwig Meidner, Emil Nolde and Edvard Munch, Ascher developed his expressionist pictorial language and created powerful figural compositions.
After 1933, the Jewish born Ascher was not allowed to produce, exhibit or sell his art. He survived the Nazi regime mostly in hiding, writing poetry. He continued to live in Berlin after 1945, resuming his work, mainly in solemn solitude.
More than 30 works on paper give an intimate glimpse into Ascher’s temperament and artistic personality. Living close to the Grunewald, the expansive city forest of Berlin, the artist observed and painted nature in different light, at different times, and in different seasons. He created powerful images of trees and flowers, sunrises and sundowns, in which light and shadow are dominant visual forces. Very often the light is depicted in a silvery white of mystical quality that reminds one of Rembrandt and El Greco. The trees have mostly heavy, strong trunks, often standing isolated or in pairs. The horizont line, which is never straight, is often elevated. Dramatic moments are expressed by intense colors. The formally innovative and atmospherically dense landscapes are soul paintings that reflect Ascher’s complex emotional life. With expressive pigments, bold brushstrokes and reckless surface treatment Ascher found a powerful and independent artistic voice, ignoring the reigning concepts of style.
This exhibition is curated by Karen Wilkin and organized in cooperation with The Fritz Ascher Society for Persecuted, Ostracized and Banned Art, Inc. re-discovers artists, whose careers were interrupted or destroyed by the Nazi terror regime.