Injured Head, Wols
Injured Head
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Injured Head, ca. 1944

170 x 123 mm
Physical Description
Pen and black ink, watercolour and white glaze on mottled pink laid paper
Inventory Number
SG 3385
Object Number
SG 3385 Z
Can be presented in the study room of the Graphische Sammlung (special opening hours)


About the Work

This is a curious thing the artist Wols has rendered on paper with meticulous care and a sense of poetry. What at first sight seems to be the detailed and faithful reproduction of an organically structured found object actually bears a greater resemblance to a hallucinatory excrescence attributable solely to the artist's imagination. On a merely palm-sized sheet of paper, this biomorphous shape is described with fine lines drawn in Indian ink. Viewed at close quarters, they form an interwoven web of tissue, which in detail looks like a microcosm marked by the process of decay caused by ageing. Various irregularly closed openings and cracks resemble long-healed injuries to a rubbery clump of tissue, whose exterior is marked by a multiply structured network of lines. Around a darkened, crater-like hollow we can make out a collection of tiny bubbles, which suggest life. An occasional bubble can also be seen floating in indeterminate nothingness around the outline of this object. Here, we can also see some of the countless little hairs, like weightless threads in motion, which underscore the coherence of the shape, whose outer form is delineated by an enclosing contour. The artist used watercolours to give the paper a slightly red tinge, lending his strange organism a fluorescent life of its own through a delicate blue, yellow, green and red.

Wols created this drawing during his sojourn in Dieulefit, near Montélimar, in the South of France, having fled there from the German occupying forces at the end of 1942. He would live there in impoverished circumstances until 1945. Wols was born Alfred Otto Wolfgang Schulze in Berlin in 1913. Artistically talented and nature-loving, he moved to Paris in 1932 and initially tried to make a living as a photographer. He adopted the pseudonym Wols in 1937. His drawings from the late 1930s - pen-and-ink works with watercolours added to provide colour - were influenced by Surrealism. In the early 1940s, his drawings switched from fantasy-based figural scenes and paradox worlds to a precise, non-representational language of forms that nonetheless remained tangibly linked to his experience of nature.

Wols' Tachist paintings, which proved very important for the development of European painting in post-war art, were not produced until after 1946, in the last years of his short life. His works were given titles posthumously as the artist himself had largely avoided them.

Work Data

Basic Information

Injured Head
Production Place
Period Produced
Object Type
Physical Description
Pen and black ink, watercolour and white glaze on mottled pink laid paper
Geographic Reference
Production Reason
Label at the Time of Manufacture
Signiert unten rechts (mit Feder in schwarzer Tusche): WOLS
Captions Added Later
Verso Stempel der Städtischen Galerie, Frankfurt am Main (Lugt 2371c)
  • Nicht vorhanden

Property and Acquisition

Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
Picture Copyright
Public Domain

Work Content

Motifs and References


  • 0 Abstract, Non-representational Art
  • 31A221 head (human)

Research and Discussion


Object History
Galérie René Drouin, Paris
Claude Hersaint, Paris
Alain Tarica, Paris
Privatbesitz, Düsseldorf
Kunsthandel Deutschland
erworben von der Städtischen Galerie, Frankfurt am Main, 1987.


Since 2001, the Städel Museum has systematically been researching the provenance of all objects that were acquired during the National Socialist period, or that changed owners or could have changed owners during those years. The basis for this research is the “Washington Declaration”, also known as the “Washington Conference Principles”, formulated at the 1998 “Conference on Holocaust-Era Assets” and the subsequent “Joint Declaration”.

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