Thursday, March 20, 2014

Herbert Fiedler

He loved Germany, but fled the National Socialists; he was a representational artist, but detested any kind of naturalistically precise daubing: throughout his life Herbert Fiedler fell between all the stools. This and the unfortunate circumstances of his life and the age he lived in prevented him from achieving a real breakthrough in his lifetime.
Self portrait in café, 1948
Herbert Fiedler was born in Leipzig in 1891. While he was studying at the Royal Academy of Art in Dresden, he got to know George Grosz and shared a flat and studio with him in Berlin in 1912. In 1913, however, Fiedler felt drawn to Paris, which at the time was the metropolis of art. There he lived in the heart of Montmartre, drew at the Académie Colarossi and became acquainted with Jules Pascin, Karl Hofer and many others at the Café du Dôme. 
Fiedler making back drops for Wagner's Lohengrin, 1951
The start of the First World War forced him to return to Germany, and he ended up at the Eastern Front, where he was wounded. The young artist spent the Twenties in Berlin. It was a difficult time; Fiedler made the acquaintance of artists such as Max Pechstein and Bertolt Brecht and struggled along with all sorts of jobs. For instance, he spent two years working for the UFA film studios as a set painter and poster designer.
Herbert Fiedler working in his Amsterdam studio at Frederiksplein, 1957 by An Tydeman
In 1934 he left Germany, and moved (with the Swiss painter Amrey Balsiger, who was later to become his wife) to the Netherlands, where the war caught up with him in 1940. During the pre-war years, which he spent in the artists' village of Laren, he developed his style, which the Dutch critics christened "Baroque Expressionism". 
Herbert Fiedler in his studio, Beulingstraat 25, Amsterdam 1951. Photo:Jo Bokma
He drove himself towards ever greater abstraction, but never lost sight of his subject. In rural Laren, he mainly produced landscapes and portraits. In Amsterdam, where he lived from December 1940 onwards, he spent the Forties and Fifties returning to his Berlin motifs, depicting the city and its people. He had a particular liking for the world of the circus: repeatedly he portrayed clowns, acrobats and trapeze artists. 
Self portrait, 1938
In 1962, Herbert Fiedler died of a heart attack while preparations were being made for a major exhibition in the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. 

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