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On 23 August 2020, the Jewish Museum Berlin is opening its new core exhibition. Until then the museum will be closed for renovations.

Persecution and Loneliness: A Painting by Felix Nussbaum

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In his painting Loneliness, Nussbaum (1904–1944) openly examines his plight as a target of persecution, one of very few artists to do so. Nussbaum painted it in Brussels, where he was in hiding with his wife, in 1942.

Enigmatic Scene

As with many of Felix Nussbaum's later works, Loneliness's color palette consists of drab shades of gray 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 his naked torso in the characteristic gesture of a martyr. A faceless, doll-like figure pursues him from behind with a megaphone. 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 enigmatic in many ways and evokes a sense of anguish.

From Rome to Auschwitz: Felix Nussbaum's Story of Persecution

Felix Nussbaum's work reflects a story of persecution. When the Nazis assumed power, the artist was living in Rome on a scholarship. Instead of returning to Germany, he traveled via Switzerland to France and later to Belgium. After German troops invaded the country, he was arrested and interned in the Saint-Cyprien camp in the Pyrenees. He managed to escape and went into hiding in Brussels with his wife, the fellow artist Felka Platek (1899–1944). In July 1944, the couple were denounced, arrested, and deported to Auschwitz, where they were murdered.

Painting: Felix Nussbaum, Loneliness

Felix Nussbaum, Loneliness; Jewish Museum Berlin, Purchased with funds provided by Stiftung DKLB, photo: Jens Ziehe

Detail of painting: Felix Nussbaum, Loneliness

Felix Nussbaum, Loneliness (detail); Jewish Museum Berlin, Purchased with funds provided by Stiftung DKLB, photo: Jens Ziehe

Felix Nussbaum

More on Wikipedia

The Felix Nussbaum Foundation has created a catalogue raisonné that lists all known artworks by Felix Nussbaum.

Catalogue Raisonné of Felix Nussbaum

Auschwitz concentration camp

More on Wikipedia

Title Loneliness
Artist Felix Nussbaum (1904–1944)
Collection Fine Arts
Year of origin 1942
Medium Oil on canvas
Dimensions 95 x 61 cm
Acquisition Purchased with funds provided by Stiftung DKLB

Selected Objects: Fine Arts Collection (11)

Fine Arts Collection

Glance through our art holdings featuring modernist works by Max Liebermann and Lovis Corinth, and commercial graphic art by Louis Oppenheim. The motifs span from biblical and Jewish themes to intimate portraits and Felix Nussbaum’s haunting response to his experience of persecution.

Albertine Mendelssohn-Bartholdy as a Bride by August Theodor Kaselowsky

In this painting, Albertine Heine appears to be a Christian Madonna. She holds the ring near her heart, wearing a white dress with her gaze modestly lowered.

Biblical map of the Holy Land

This "New and Original Biblical Map of the Holy Land" from 1893 was probably never intended to be used by pilgrims or travelers on the ground.

Loneliness by Felix Nussbaum

Nussbaum is nearly unique among artists for his striking examination of his plight as one of the persecuted. He painted it in Brussels, where he was in hiding, in 1942.

The Plesch Family Portrait by Max Slevogt

Max Slevogt created this painting of his friend's family in 1928. It captures the intimacy of family life while fulfilling a group portrait's representative function.

Composition by Otto Freundlich

Otto Freundlich painted this abstract composition in 1938 – one year after another artwork of his had been branded "degenerate art" in Nazi Germany.

Moses Looks upon the Promised Land by Lesser Ury

For artist Lesser Ury, the painting marked the end of a lifelong preoccupation with the figure of Moses. Unfortunately, only a pastel sketch for the painting survives.

S. Adam Advertising Poster by Louis Oppenheim

With this poster by the well-known graphic artist Louis Oppenheim, the S. Adam clothing store advertised its products to male and female sports enthusiasts in 1908.

Passage through the Red Sea by Jakob Steinhardt

This woodcut by Jakob Steinhardt illustrates a 1920s Haggadah. The people barely escaped with their lives—as is revealed in the expression on Moses’ face.

Girl Walking by Elisabeth Wolff

The sculpture by Elisabeth Wolff was a trophy at the first sporting festival held by the Reich Committee for Jewish Youth Associations, in 1934. The artwork has only been entrusted to our collection for safekeeping.

Self-Portrait with Straw Hat by Max Liebermann

In this late self-portrait, the artist presents himself as bourgeois in a dark suit and a Panama hat. Two years after his eightieth birthday, he painted himself here with a touch of resignation and melancholy.

Petermannchen by Lovis Corinth

Lovis Corinth painted this portrait of his student and wife-to-be during a beach vacation on the Baltic coast. It contains a secret romantic message.