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Paris Art Studies - Felix Nussbaum 1904 - 1944


1901 – Birth of Justus Nussbaum, the artist’s older brother.

1904 – Birth of Felix Nussbaum (11 Dec.) in Osnabrück (Lower Saxony, west Germany) son of Philipp Nussbaum prosperous hardware shop owner and amateur artist and collector, and of Rahel van Dyk.

1910 – Felix attends the local Jewish primary school.

1913-14 – Studies at the gymnasium.

1914-18 – His father is mobilized during WWI, serves in cavalry.

1920 – First preserved drawing executed in Art Nouveau style for a cousin’s bar-mitsvah.

1921 – Meets Fritz Steinfeld his best friend, doctor and biographer.

1922 – Encouraged by his father leaves for Hamburg to study at the school of decorative arts.

1923 – Moves to Berlin where he studies under the Expressionist painter Willy Jaeckel (1888-1944) member of the Prussian academy of art.

1924 – Meets his future wife Felka Platek (born 1899 in Warsaw) studying art n Berlin under Ludwig Meidner with whom Nussbaum will discuss at length the relation between art and religion. Admitted into the National School of free and applied art where he studies under César Klein (1876-1954), member of the Novembergruppe, an Expressionist and socialist artistic avant garde.

1925 – First self-portrait. His early work is much inspired by his love for Van Gogh. Spends his summer holidays on Nordeney island in the North sea with his family.

1926 – His style is affected by more modern currents, notably the “naive” French styles of Douanier Rousseau and Maurice Utrillo shown in Berlin at the Alfred Flechtheim gallery.

1927 – First solo show at the Jaques Casper gallery in Berlin. Receives his art school diploma.

1928 – Studies under Hans Meid (1883-1957) but is much influenced by the dark Realism of the painter Karl Hofer (1878-1955). Participates in several young artists’ exhibitions in Berlin galleries.

1929 – Exhibits in Osnabrück, Düsseldorf, Hamburg and Cassel. Second solo show in Casper gallery in Berlin. Moves in with Felka into a shared studio in Berlin. Exhibits “Embryos” in the “Women in distress” exhibition organized to protest anti-abortion legislation.

1930 – Exhibits at the Wertheim gallery in Berlin.

1931 – Shows a humorous painting, outlining the conflicts between young and old artistic generations (“The Mad Square”) at the Berlin Secession. This introduces a new satirical vein in his work.

1932 – The Prussian Academy of Art awards him with a residence at the German academy in Rome in the villa Massimo. He finds Rome unreal and ridiculously antique. Almost his entire artistic production (150 works) is destroyed in a studio fire back in Berlin.

1933 – Receives an indemnity from insurance to buy new artistic materials. Adolf Hitler is named chancellor of the Reich on 30 January. Nussbaum’s residence in Rome is extended. A political argument with a fellow pupil leads to a violent fight and to the expulsion of both artists from the academy, which will shut shortly afterwards. Nussbaum decides not to return to Germany, he settles in Alassio. He visits Paris and Monte Carlo where he meets his friend Ftitz Steinfled who will emigrate to Palestine.

1934 – His parents also leave Germany for Switzerland, eventually joining him and Felka in Rapallo.

1935 – His parents who are homesick decide to return to Germany. They sell the Osnabrück shop and settle in Cologne. Justus, the older brother stays in Osnabrück where he runs a spare car part business. Felix and Felka move to Paris but unable to obtain a visa, move on to Belgium where they settle in Ostende. There, Felix meets and will be influenced by the work of James Ensor (1860-1949). The couple obtains the precious foreign residency permits for Belgium, which will be extended from year to year. Felix exhibits in Cologne and the Dietrich gallery in Brussels.

1936 – Nussmaum illustrates an advertising film script for a London producer.

1937 – Nussbaum has a solo show in The Hague organized by his friend the Belgian sculptor Dolf Ledel. Justus flees to Amsterdam with his family and sets up an industrial business. Felix and Felka move to Brussels where they marry. Belgian nationality is refused to both though they fulfill the legal requirements for it. Nussbaum works as illustrator of Flemish school books. He has his older paintings, left by his father in Cologne, sent to him.

1938 – He participates in the exhibition “Free German Art” held in Paris to counter the “Degenerate Art” exhibition organized in 1937 in Munich by the Nazi regime. 9-10 November is Kristallnacht in Germany. In Osnabrück the synagogue is destroyed, Jewish houses and shops are looted and most of the Jewish men under 55 are sent to Buchenwald concentration camp.






1939 – Solo show at the socialist club in Brussels organized with the help of Ledel. His and Felka’s residency permit is extended until 16 May 1940 but their financial situation is increasingly precarious. Nussbaum’s parents join Justus in Amsterdam. In September Britain and France declare war on Gemany after the German invasion of Poland.

1940 – On 10 May Germany invades Belgium. Nussbaum is arrested as enemy alien and deported to the St Cyprien concentration camp in southern France near the Pyrenees. Felka remains in Brussels. In Amsterdam Justus’ company with its Jewish workers is placed under German protection because of its industrial value.

In August Nussbaum is transferred to Bordeaux where he manages to escape and make his way back to Brussels.

In December he is registered on the list of Jewish residents of Brussels and lives precariously by doing illustrations and painting ceramics.

1941 – He paints his famous concentration camp scenes. Felka looses her Geman nationality obtained upon her marriage. Nussbaum will cease painting between December 1941 and March 1942.

1942 – He has his most important works photographed and stores all his works with a friend, the dentist Dr Grosfils and with one of the dentist’s friends, Dr Lefèvre. The yellow star badge becomes obligatory for Jews on 7 July. The couple is denounced by a pretending friend, Kern, who turns out be a Gestapo spy. They flee to the house of the sculptor Ledel.

1943 – The Ledels decide to leave for the country and propose that the Nusbaums come with them. Probably because of Felka’s weak health the Nussbaums decide to remain in Brussels and hide in a garret in the house of their original landowners. Nussbaum arranges a studio in a neighbor’s basement. His brother, his parents and their Jewish colleagues in Amsterdam are arrested and transferred to the Westerbrook camp.

1944 – Nussbaum’s parents and brother are transferred to Auschwitz where they will die at different dates. Nussbaum’s last work, “The Triumph of Death” is dated 18 April 1944. On 20 June the Nussbaums are denounced and arrested by the German authorities. On 31 July they are transferred to Auschwitz on the last detainee train to leave Belgium. Their train arrives in Auschwitz on 2 July.






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