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The Painting "Composition" by Otto Freundlich

Photo: Otto Freundlich: Composition (1938)

Painting "Composition" by Otto Freundlich
© Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Jens Ziehe

The composition depicted here came into being in 1938. In Nazi Germany of that time, works by Otto Freundlich were the epitome of "Entartete Kunst" (Degenerate Art). The title page of the guide on the exhibition of the same name featured his sculpture "The New Man" from the year 1912. That same year in his chosen home of Paris, the Jeanne Bucher Gallery showed an exhibition of his work to mark his 60th birthday. Over 20 friends and artist colleagues signed an appeal to the French government to purchase two works for the National Museum of Modern Art in order to support the destitute artist.

Following the occupation of France, Otto Freundlich tried in vain to leave the country. He ultimately lived undercover with a farming family in a Pyrenean village. He was arrested after denunciation and deported via Paris to the Lublin/Majdanek Concentration Camp. He died there on the day of his arrival.

Throughout his lifetime, Otto Freundlich had close contacts to the left avant-garde groups: Dada in Berlin and Cologne, the Progressive Artists’ Group in Cologne and the "abstraction-création" and "Cercle et Carré" in Paris. The emergence of a new art and a new society had always been connected in his mind. The social, utopic content of his abstract compositions is refected in titles such as "ascension" and "mon ciel est rouge."

The same-sized, cell-like, color "building blocks" are connected in quasi-suspended harmony. Others, such as the composition shown here, describe a movement from darkness into light, whereby the blue, the traditional color of transcendence, gives way to a radiant yellow.

Object Details:
Otto Freundlich
Tempera on card, 54,5 x 45 cm
Inscription bottom right: O.F./1938

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