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Max Kaus – The Second Generation German Expressionist Painter & Graphic Artist

Well known German painter and graphic artist, Max Kaus, was born in Berlin on March 11, 1891. He was the pioneer of German Expressionism, and most of his prints were like the mementos of the nascent beauty of the ‘twentieth century art.’ Max’s initial encounter with the world of art, especially ‘Italian Renaissance Art,’ was through his visit to the Kaiser-Friedrich Museum. Kaus began as a ‘decorative’ artist, and received on the job training. Meanwhile, he also attended the School for Applied and Decorative Arts in Berlin-Charlottenburg. In 1913, he established his own studio to begin his freelance artistic works.

Kaus’ visit to the Art Metropolis at Paris, in the year 1914, drove him away from ‘Decorative Arts’ to ‘Fine Arts.’ Before he could fully develop his interest, however, World War I broke out, and he had to head back home. In 1916, he volunteered to work as an ambulance driver in Flanders. During this period, he met several artists, such as Erich Heckel, Anton Kerschbaumer, and Otto Herbig, who were also serving in the German army at that time. These artists and Erich Heckel, his military supervisor in Ostend, inspired Kaus’ early works, which was marked with meditative imagery, and existential bleakness through his woodcuts and lithographs.

After the end of the war, initially, Kaus supported himself by accepting commissions for his ‘decorative work.’ Later on, however, he took his artistry seriously and started exhibiting his work regularly, after his first one-man show at the Ferdinand Möller Gallery, in the year 1919. In 1920, Max Kaus became the member of ‘Freie Sezession Movement,’ which greatly promoted the cause of the ‘Expressionist Movement.’ Through group, Max met Karl Schmidt-Rottluff and Otto Mueller.

In 1921, Kaus joined both, the ‘Berlin Secession,’ and the ‘Munich Expressionist’ Workshops, simultaneously. His work, around this time, re-energized the world of Graphics Art.’ He would blend the grotesque and exaggerated ‘Realism’ together with jagged simplicity, the example of which can be seen in his “Madchenkopf” (1920). By late 1920s, Kaus started losing interest in ‘Expressionism,’ and started teaching landscape painting, nudes, and animals drawings, at the Master School for the Applied and Decorative Arts in Berlin. In 1933, he accepted the position of a professor at the Vereinigte Staatsschulen, Berlin.

In 1927, Kaus was awarded the Albrecht-Dürer Prize of the City of Nuremberg, followed by the Villa Romana Prize in 1929. From 1935, Kaus was oppressed, and ill-treated by the Nazi’s, as they disliked his work. His emphasis on figurative painting at the United State Schools in Berlin also invited negative reactions from the Nazi regime. His works were confiscated in 1937, and in 1938, he was forced to resign from his position at the Vereinigte Staatsschulen. World War II began formally in 1939. In 1943, his studio was damaged in a bombing raid, and later, in 1945, most his graphic work was destroyed.

In the final years of his life, Max Kaus became a teacher at the Staatliche Hochschule für Bildende Künste in Berlin, and remained there until 1968. His style also moved towards ‘Abstraction,’ around this time, as is evidenced in “Temple Ruins II” (1957). Max Kaus died in Berlin on August 5, 1977.

Source by Annette Labedzki

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