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 Si Lewen  (1918 - )

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Lived/Active: New York / Germany/Poland      Known for: abstract, figure paintings

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Si Lewen
An example of work by Si Lewen
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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Biography for Si Lewen submitted by Gary Stanley/ArtSanDiego:

Si Lewen was born on November 8, 1918 in Lublin, Poland, at the end of World War I. As an infant he was smuggled into Germany. In his early years in Berlin he witnessed the artistic, cultural, and political upheaval during the "Weimar" years. Lewen took up drawing and painting at an early age. By age 5 he had decided he would become an artist. Growing up in Germany resulted in him being socially pointed to as that "Polish Jewboy".

Lewen was artistically gifted at an early age, having his first Gallery show before the age of 14. He drifted from his ancestral Jewish religion, which resulted in him refusing the traditional Bar Mitzvah. His educational and budding art career ended abruptly when Hitler came to power in 1933. Fearing the worst he fled to France, with plans on continuing on to America. That never would have happened had there not been a coincidental relationship to Admiral Byrd and his expedition to Antarctica. As it happened, his Uncle was one of the sponsors of Byrd's expedition. In the US, Senator Byrd, the Admiral's brother, was grateful for his Uncle's help and facilitated his coming to America.

Shortly after his arrival in America he again felt persecuted because of his ancestral religion. He felt no better off here than he did in the upheaval of Europe at the time. This led to an attempted suicide. After his release from a mental institution, he again put his artistic endeavors on hold.

At the outbreak of World War II Lewen enlisted in the US Army and saw action from Normandy through France, then eventually back to Germany. It was at Buchenwald that he faced the reminders and remains of the Holocaust, and realized that this could have been his fate. Returning to America after the War he resumed his art career. He felt that this would be the only way he could heal himself from the traumas he had been exposed to early in life. He had been highly influenced by the French Modern movement, especially Cubism.

He presented his works in many gallery shows during this time, with very successful sales results. Excellent reviews of his work led to many national and international exhibitions. Two volumes of his graphic works were presented in the publication entitled "The Parade". This led to Albert Einstein commenting, "Our time needs you and your art". He followed that publication with "The Journey" which featured 72 of his works.

In 1976 Lewen began to withdraw from the art world into a self imposed exile. The exhibitions slowed, and eventually came to a halt in 1985. Although still painting regularly he declared his current and further work "no longer for sale". While in this self imposed exile his art, free of market pressures, seemed to grow and blossom into varying exotic abstract forms. He now felt free to explore different artistic avenues.

Lewen's works have been exhibited in some of our country's most prestigious venues, including the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, and the Whitney Museum of American Art. Because of his exile from the commercial side of his art work, his works rarely come to market. He has been influenced by German Expressionists Kaethe Kollwitz, George Grosz, and Frans Masereel. Si Lewen, now 86 years old (2004), still paints his "not for sale" abstract works, and lives in New Paltz, New York.

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