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.
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”.
The provenance information is based on the sources researched at the time they were published digitally. However, this information can change at any time when new sources are discovered. Provenance research is therefore a continuous process and one that is updated at regular intervals.
Ideally, the provenance information documents an object’s origins from the time it was created until the date when it found its way into the collection. It contains the following details, provided they are known:
The successive ownership records are separated from each other by a semicolon.
Gaps in the record of a provenance are indicated by the placeholder “…”. Unsupported information is listed in square brackets.
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