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 Werner Drewes  (1899 - 1985)

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Lived/Active: New York/Missouri      Known for: mod sea-views and non-objective painting, graphics

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Werner Drewes
from Auction House Records.
Study of Movement, Composition #7
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following is from Richard Leon who credits the Smithsonian website;
http://nmaa-ryder.si.edu/collections/exhibits/abstraction/drewes.html

WERNER DREWES
1899 Germany--1985 USA

The son of a Lutheran minister who was interested in archaeology and the natural sciences, WERNER DREWES believed that art provided an avenue to understanding the mysteries of life:

What is the mystery underlying the Architecture of our Universe? What are the laws which create the pattern of the frost which forms on our windows? What causes the stars to stay in their orbit? What is it which creates joy and sorrow within us? . . . All these are problems belonging to the world we live in and which should concern the artist, as well as those problems of sunlight or the growth of a tree. But art is also a world with its own laws, whether they underlie a painting of realistic or abstract forms. . . .

To create new universes within these laws and to fill them with the experiences of our life is our task. . . . When they convincingly reflect the wisdom or struggle of the soul, a work of art is born.[1]

These words, written in 1936, provide a framework for understanding Drewes's work throughout his life. From his student days, he was fascinated with the formal possibilities of line and color. Yet, he was unwilling to forego the profound expressive potential of thematic motifs. Drewes moved easily between pure abstraction and expressionistic figuration, occasionally using highly energized abstract forms to express powerful emotions, as in his 1934 woodcut series, It Can't Happen Here.

Following military service in World War I, Drewes studied architecture and design in Berlin and Stuttgart. But he was soon attracted to the experimental freedom and the notion of the unity of the arts associated with the Bauhaus curriculum. In 1921 he enrolled in classes with Johannes Itten, Paul Klee, and Oskar Schlemmer. Unsettled yet as an artist, in 1923 Drewes began several years of world travel, initially to Italy and Spain, where he studied Veronese, Tintoretto, Velazquez, and El Greco. His wanderjahren then took him to Latin America (he had exhibitions in Buenos Aires and Montevideo), the United States, the Orient, and finally, via the trans-Siberia railroad, through Manchuria, Moscow, and Warsaw, back to Germany.

In 1927 Drewes returned to the Bauhaus, which had moved from Weimar to Dessau. But he found that its emphasis, as well as its location, had changed. The rather loose, experimental phase of the school's early years had yielded to a firmer commitment to design, to the potential for uniting art and technology, and to the artist's "new" social role in molding society.[2]

In spite of his preference for the earlier days, Drewes resumed his studies with Klee and Schlemmer. He attended Wassily Kandinsky's weekly painting classes and became close friends with Lyonel Feininger, Moholy-Nagy, and Josef Albers. He left the following year, however, at a time when the Bauhaus was in turmoil. He worked independently and taught, and in 1930, Drewes settled in New York. Kandinsky provided an introduction to Katherine Dreier, an abstract artist and founder of the Societe Anonyme, who immediately began to include Drewes's work in the group's exhibitions.[3]

He subsequently taught at the Brooklyn Museum (under the sponsorship of the WPA's Federal Art Project) and at Columbia University. In 1940 he was appointed director of the WPA's graphic art division in New York. In 1946, after additional teaching posts at Brooklyn College and at Moholy-Nagy's Institute of Design in Chicago, Drewes accepted a position at Washington University in St. Louis. He remained there until his retirement in 1965.

The obvious kinship between Drewes's Pointed Brown and Floating Circles and Kandinsky's paintings of the mid 1920s is more than a testament of respect from student to master. After a friendship begun at the Bauhaus, Kandinsky became Drewes's artistic mentor. The two corresponded frequently in the years after Drewes settled in New York, and the young Drewes assisted with Kandinsky's New York exhibitions. Kandinsky's letters are filled with news of the Bauhaus, the worsening political situation in Germany, and, when Drewes sent photographs, of reactions to his recent work. Drewes's frequent practice of painting thinly, which in this painting allows the woodgrained panel to suggest the organic movement of ocean in the sea-green foreground, is an aspect of Drewes's technique that Kandinsky especially admired.[4]

A founding member of the American Abstract Artists (by one account Drewes showed Arshile Gorky the door when the Armenian immigrant stalked out of an early meeting), Drewes exhibited more frequently in commercial galleries and museum exhibitions than did many of his friends within the group.[5] Drewes often received positive reviews, and his work occasionally won prizes during these difficult years.[6] He remained actively involved during the organization's early days and provided support and encouragement to his fellow abstract artists.

1. Werner Drewes, "Statement," in exhibition brochure, 4 Painters: Albers, Dreier, Drewes, Kelpe, Soci_t_ Anonyme traveling exhibition, 1936, in Werner Drewes Papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., roll 1498.
2. Peter Hahn, "About Werner Drewes," in Ingrid Rose, Werner Drewes: A Catalogue Raisonn_ of His Prints (Munich; New York: Verlag Kunstgalerie Esslingen, 1984), p. 21.
3. Drewes subsequently became vice president of the Soci_t_ Anonyme.
4. Wassily Kandinsky, letter to Werner Drewes, 14 March 1932, in Drewes Papers, Archives of American Art, roll 1497: 466-67, translated by Leo R. LeMaire and Mary V. Drach.
5. Ilya Bolotowsky, "Reminiscences about the American Abstract Artists," 20 June 1966, in Ilya Bolotowsky Papers, Archives of American Art, roll 2787: 288--294.
6. A reviewer of Drewes's 1939 exhibition at the Artists' Gallery mentioned the "breadth of scope," the "clear eloquent color," and "imaginative designs," and recommended the show to "anyone who searches for meaning in abstractions. . . ." See "New Exhibitions of the Week," Art News 37, no. 28 (8 April 1939): 14.
Source: Virginia M. Mecklenburg. "The Patricia and Phillip Frost Collection: American Abstraction, 1930-1945" (Washington, DC: National Museum of American Art and Smithsonian Institution Press, 1989), pp. 9-10.




This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Niederlausitz, Germany on July 27, 1899. Drewes was a pupil of Klee and Kandinsky. He arrived in San Francisco in 1926 and spent one year. While there, he created about 23-29 etchings, drypoints, and aquatints of landscapes, cityscapes, nudes, and portraits (one of Albert Bender). In 1927 he left for Japan and Korea and returned to NYC in 1930. During the 1950s he taught at Washington University in St Louis. Drewes died in Reston, VA in 1985. Exh: NMAA, 1969, 1984 (solos). In: SFMA; MM; Seattle Museum; Orange Co. (CA) Museum; many others.
Source:
Edan Hughes, "Artists in California, 1786-1940"
Werner Drewes: A Catalog Raisonné by Ingrid Rose; Who's Who in American Art 1936-70; Social Security Death Index (1940-2002).
Nearly 20,000 biographies can be found in Artists in California 1786-1940 by Edan Hughes and is available for sale ($150). For a full book description and order information please click here.

Biography from Williams American Art Galleries:
Werner Drewes received his first instruction in art as a child in the village of Conig, East Germany, where he was born in 1899.  He served in World War I, after which he had his first formal training at Stuttgart where he studied architecture and design. He later studied under Paul Klee, Oskar Schlemmer, and Johannes Itten at the Bauhaus at Weimar.

In 1923, the artist traveled throughout Europe studying the work of the Old Masters.  While in Italy, Drewes married and the couple continued traveling through Europe and then on the South and Central America.  They continued on crossing the United States and then on to Korea, Japan, Manchuria, and Russia.  The couple ended their travels in Berlin and Drewes resumed studies at the Bauhaus and then at Dessau.  He also studied privately with Wassily Kandinsky and attended Hinnerk Sheper’s mural tutorials.

In 1930, Drewes and his family relocated to New York where he continued to work simultaneously in representational and abstract styles.  The following year, he was introduced to a co-founder of the Societe Anonyme, Katherine Dreier, by Kandinsky.  The introduction proved to be fruitful resulting in the first of several exhibitions with the Societe.  The artist instructed in drawing and printmaking at the Brooklyn Museum School between 1934 and 1936.  He joined the American Artists’ Congress and became a founding member of the American Abstract Artists in 1937. That same year, he obtained United States citizenship.

In 1940 and 1941, Drewes was the director of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) Graphic Arts Division in New York.  Drewes returned to teaching at the Brooklyn Museum School in 1944.  He also produced experimental intaglio prints as a member of Stanley William Hayter’s Atelier 17.  In 1945, the artist taught at the Institute of Design in Chicago.  His longest held teaching position was at the School of Fine Arts at Washington University in St. Louis between 1946 and 1965. Throughout this time and into the 1970’s, Drewes continued his work with printmaking as well as painted extensively.  He passed away in 1985 in Reston, Virginia.

Studied:
Charlottenburg Technische-Hochschule, Berlin, Germany
Stuttgart School of Architecture
Stuttgart School of Arts & Crafts
Weimar Staatliches Bauhaus, with Itten and Paul Klee
Dessau Staatliches Bauhaus, with Kandinsky and Feininger, 1927

Member:
Sociètè Anonyme (vice-president)
American Abstract Artists, 1937-46 (founder)
Philadelphia Print Club
Color Print Society
Woodstock Art Association
Salons of America
Works Progress Administration/ Federal Arts Project

Exhibited:
Sociètè Anonyme, 1930s
Salons of America, 1933, 1934
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, 1933-34, 1944-51
Art Institute of Chicago
Whitney Museum of American Art
Museum of Modern Art, 1939 (prize, plexiglas sculpture)
Museum of Costume Art, 1914 (prize, textile composition)
Carnegie Institute, 1945-47
St. Louis Art Museum, 1959 (prize)
Cleveland Museum of Art, 1961 (solo)
Legion of Honor, San Francisco, 1962 (solo, prints)
Washington University, St. Louis, 1965 (retrospective)
National Museum of American Art, 1969 (retrospective, prints)
Woodstock Art Association

Work:
Phillips Memorial Gallery
National Museum of American Art
Busch-Reisinger Museum, Cambridge, Massachusetts
St. Louis Art Museum
Library of Congress
Yale University Art Gallery
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Sociètè Anonyme
Bennington College
Addison Gallery of American Art, Massachusetts
Brooklyn Museum
Honolulu Academy of the Arts
San Francisco Museum of Art
Art Institute of Chicago
Springfield Museum of Art
Boston Museum of Fine Arts
Fogg Museum of Art
Newark Public Library
New York Public Library
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
Frankfurt Museum, Germany
Ackland Art Museum, North Carolina
Cheekwood Museum of Art & Botanical Garden, Tennessee
Georgia Museum of Art
Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Missouri
New Jersey State Museum
San Diego Museum of Art, California
Sarah Moody Gallery of Art, Alabama
Sheldon Swope Art Museum, Indiana
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
Wright Museum of Art, Wisconsin
University of Michigan Museum of Art

References:
Becker, The Imprint of Place: Maine Printmaking 1800-2005
Dunbier (ed.), The Artists Bluebook: 34,000 North American Artists
Sherman, With an Eye and a Passion: Selections from the Marion Collection
Hughes, Artists in California: 1786-1940
Falk (ed.), Who Was Who in American Art 1564-1975
Falk (ed.), Record of the Carnegie Institute, International Exhibition, 1896-1996
Agee, Modern American Painting 1910-1940, Toward A New Perspective
Hopps, American Images/ The SBC Collection of 20th Century American Art
Levin and Lorenz, Theme & Improvisation, Kandinsky & the American
Avant-Garde
Marlor, The Salons of America
Acton, A Spectrum of Innovation, Color in American Printmaking 1890-1960
Falk (ed.), The Annual Exhibition of the Art Institute of Chicago
Fahlman, American Modernism
Falk (ed.), Annual Exhibition Record, 1914-68, Pennsylvania Academy of the
Fine Arts
Fresella-Lee, The American Paintings (in the) Pennsylvania Academy of the
Fine Arts
Littleton and Sykes, Advancing American Art, Painting, Politics and Cultural
Confrontation
Opitz (ed.), Mantle Fielding’s Dictionary of American Painters, Sculptors &
Engravers
Dawdy, Artists of the American West: A Biographical Dictionary
Wooden, American Art of the Great Depression, Two Sides of the Coin
Falk (ed.), Who Was Who in American Art, Artists Active 1898-1947
Watrous, A Century of American Printmaking 1880-1980
Norelli, Werner Drewes, Sixty-Five Years of Printmaking
Jane and Larsen, Abstract Painting and Sculpture in America 1927-1944
Johnson, American Prints and Printmakers, A Chronicle of Over 400 Artists
Becker, “200 Years of Printmaking in Maine,” American Art Review, Dec 2006
Van Gelder, “The Geometry of Color,” American Artist, June 1996
Mallett, Index of Artists, International-Biographical
Bazin and Gloeckner, History of Modern Painting
Drewes is referenced in over 40 books and magazines


Biography from David Cook Galleries:
Werner Drewes received his first instruction in art as a child in the village of Conig, East Germany. He served in World War I, after which he had his first formal training at Stuttgart where he studied architecture and design. He later studied under Paul Klee, Oskar Schlemmer, and Johannes Itten at the Bauhaus at Weimar.

In 1923, the artist traveled throughout Europe studying the work of the old masters. While in Italy, Drewes married and the couple continued traveling through Europe and then on the South and Central America. They continued on crossing the United States and then on to Korea, Japan, Manchuria, and Russia. The couple ended their travels in Berlin and Drewes resumed studies at the Bauhaus and then at Dessau. He also studied privately with Wassily Kandinsky and attended Hinnerk Sheper’s mural tutorials.

In 1930, Drewes and his family relocated to New York where he continued to work simultaneously in representational and abstract styles. The following year, he was introduced to a cofounder of the Societe Anonyme, Katherine Dreier, by Kandinsky. The introduction proved to be fruitful resulting in the first of several exhibitions with the Societe.

The artist instructed in drawing and printmaking at the Brooklyn Museum School between 1934 and 1936. He joined the American Artists’ Congress and became a founding member of the American Abstract Artists in 1937. That same year, he obtained United States citizenship. In 1940 and 1941, Drewes was the director of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) Graphic Arts Division in New York.

Drewes returned to teaching at the Brooklyn Museum School in 1944. He also produced experimental intaglio prints as a member of Stanley William Hayter’s Atelier 17. In 1945, the artist taught at the Institute of Design in Chicago. His longest held teaching position was at the School of Fine Arts at Washington University in St. Louis between 1946 and 1965.

Throughout this time and into the 1970’s Drewes continued his work with printmaking as well as painted extensively.

EXHIBITIONS
Salons of America, 1933-34; Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, 1933-34, 1944-51; Museum of Modern Art, 1939 (prize); Societe Anonyme, 1930’s; Museum of Costume Art, 1941 (prize); Carnegie Institute, 1945-47; St. Louis Art Museum, 1959 (prize); Cleveland Museum of Art, 1961 (solo); Legion of Honor, San Francisco, 1962 (solo); Washington University, St. Louis, 1965 (retrospective); National Museum of American Art, 1969 (retrospective); Art Institute of Chicago; Whitney Museum of American Art.

COLLECTIONS
Addison Gallery of American Art; Art Institute of Chicago; Bennington College; Boston Museum of Fine Arts; Brooklyn Museum; Busch-Reisinger Museum, Cambridge, Massachusetts; Fogg Museum of Art; Frankfurt Museum, Germany; Honolulu Academy of the Arts; National Museum of American Art; New York Public Library; Newark Public Library; Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts; Philadelphia Museum of Art; Phillips Memorial Gallery, Washington, D.C.; Société Anonyme; St. Louis Art Museum; Yale University Artists Guild.

FURTHER READING
"The Second Wave: American Abstraction of the 1930’s and 1940’s", Susan E. Strickler and Elaine D. Gustafson, Worcester Art Museum, Worcester, Massachusetts, 1991

"Who Was Who in American Art 1564-1975: 400 Years of Artists in America", Vol. 1. Peter Hastings Falk, Georgia Kuchen and Veronica Roessler, eds.,Sound View Press, Madison, Connecticut, 1999. 3 Vols.

Biography from Hollis Taggart Galleries (Artists, A-D):
Born July 27, 1899, in Canig, Germany, Werner Drewes studied architecture in Berlin and design in Stuttgart before beginning study at the Bauhaus in 1921 (located first in Weimar, then in Dessau, Germany). There he underwent courses of study with Klee and Kandinsky, with a four-year break for world travel.

After immigrating to New York in 1930, Drewes became a key disseminator of Kandinsky’s ideas and aesthetics in America and a founding member of the influential American Abstract Artists group along with Ilya Bolotowsky, Burgoyne Diller, and George L. K. Morris.

Throughout the 1930s, Drewes painted both in the abstract manner of Kandinsky and in a style influenced by Cubism. In 1934, Drewes met Katherine Dreier, founder of the Société Anonyme, a circle for sharing ideas about avant-garde art among European and American artists. She became a friend and significant patron who collected his work and included him in exhibitions that she organized. In addition to exhibiting regularly at New York galleries, from 1934-36 he taught drawing and printmaking at the Brooklyn Museum, under the auspices of the Federal Art Project. From 1937-1940 he also taught drawing and printmaking at Columbia University.

An accomplished printmaker, Drewes served as director of the Works Progress Administration Graphic Arts Division in New York City from 1940 to 1941. In 1946, Drewes moved to St. Louis to accept a tenured professorship of design at the School of Fine Arts at Washington University. After twenty years of teaching, he moved to Pennsylvania; in 1972, he moved to Reston, Virginia, where he lived until his death in 1985.

© Copyright 2008 Hollis Taggart Galleries

Biography from Tobey C. Moss Gallery:
WERNER DREWES’ strong modernist roots evolved at the Bauhaus under the tutelage of modern masters Lyonel Feininger, Johannes Itten, Wassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee. Drewes emigrated to the United States in 1930. In 1936, he became a founding member (along with Josef Albers, Burgoyne Diller, David Smith, Vaclav Vytlacil and others) of the American Abstract Artists group, the revolutionary group of artists that played a pivotal role in the evolution and acceptance of non-objective art in the United States.

Drewes creativity is revealed in his work over the next fifty five years - through his teaching at the New Bauhaus, Chicago in the 1930s/40s and at Washington University in St.Louis from the 1940s until retirement in l965. As can be seen in this exhibition, retirement did not stop the flow of his art!

Regardless of medium or technique, Drewes was inspired by his heritage - expressionism, Bauhaus discipline, aesthetic inventiveness and personal intuition. From his beginnings, bold figuration, dramatic geometric forms, rhythmic abstractions and brilliant palettes combine to give evidence of a personal vocabulary in his woodcuts, oils and other techniques. Drawings recorded ideas throughout his career but he also, frequently, made wonderful collages as 'studies'. Many of these inventive compositions can be traced to subsquent works.

Drewes was working until the month he died. Watercolors, drawings, collages, prints and paintings span an illustrious career.

Biography from ACME Fine Art:
Werner Drewes
1899-1985

Education:
Studied with Johannes Itten and Paul Klee at the Bauhaus, Weimar, 1921-22
Returned to the Bauhaus under Wassily Kandinsky and Lyonel Feininger, 1927-28

Exhibitions:
Cleveland Museum of Art, 1961 (Solo)
Achenbach Foundation for the Graphic Arts, Museum of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco, 1962 (Solo)
Everhart Museum, Scranton, 1966 (Solo)
Trenton State College, 1968 (Solo)
National Collection of Fine Arts, Washington, DC, 1969 (Solo)
Washington University, St. Louis, 1979 (Solo)
Associated American Artists, New York, 1983 (Solo)
Retrospective, National Museum of American Arts, Washington, DC, 1984
Tobey C. Moss Gallery, Los Angeles, 1986, '90,'92, '94, '97, 2001, '03 (Solo)
Platt Fine Art, Chicago, 2006

Selected Collections:
Smithsonian Museum of American Art, Washington
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
New York Public Library
Museum of Modern Art, New York
Brooklyn Museum
National Gallery of Art, Washington
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston



Biography from Marin-Price Galleries:

Werner Drewes lived in the Washington, D.C. area (Reston, Virginia) from  1972 to 1984, when he died.  Prior to that he lived in Point Pleasant, Pennsylvania (1962-1972).  In both places he painted prolifically, continuing with the tradition of painting abstracts and representational work.


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