Felix Nussbaum was on a scholarship in Rome when Hitler assumed power. Instead of returning to Germany, he traveled to Belgium via Switzerland and France. Just before German troops invaded the country, he was arrested by the Belgian authorities and deported to France, where he was interned in the Saint-Cyprien camp in the Pyrenees. He managed to escape and went into hiding in Brussels with his wife, but in July 1944 the couple were denounced, arrested, and deported to Auschwitz, where they were murdered.
Nussbaum completed the painting "Loneliness" in 1942 while living in hiding. Like many of his later works, it makes use of pale shades of grey and brown. Although the truncated branches of the trees and the narrow boarded alleyway create an atmosphere of menace and death, the ashen figure of a young man in the foreground seems to promise redemption. He points to the upper part of his naked body in the characteristic gesture of a martyr. A faceless, puppet-like figure pursues him from behind with a megaphone.
Nussbaum is nearly unique among artists for his striking examination of his plight as one of the persecuted. However, unlike his well-known work "Self-Portrait with a Jewish Passport," completed one year later, and unlike his paintings from the internment camp, this depiction shows his hopelessness in a scene that remains puzzling in many ways and evokes a feeling of oppression.
Felix Nussbaum (1904–1944)
Oil on canvas
95 x 61 cm
Purchased with funds from the Stiftung Deutsche Klassenlotterie Berlin