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Dresden celebrates the 100th birthday of the epochal photographer, painter and graphic artist Wols
Nicole Bouban, Herbst 1932 - Oktober 1933/Januar 1935-1937. Silbergelatinepapier, Vintage Print, 1937. Kupferstich-Kabinett, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden. VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2013.
DRESDEN.- Wols (1913–1951) is a key figure of post-war modernism. However, as this exhibition of his photography demonstrates, there are still aspects of his work which can come as a surprise and which amount to a remarkable discovery. ‘Wols’ Photography: Images Regained’, a retrospective marking the centenary of his birth, is the first exhibition to be devoted to a comprehensive exploration of his photographic work. It runs until 26 August in the Dresden Kupferstich-Kabinett, and presents around 740 works, including modern prints from original negatives, contact prints and rare vintage prints made by Wols himself. The exhibition and its accompanying catalogue look beyond the myths surrounding Wols to focus on his artistic achievements, providing new insights based on recent art-historical reappraisal of works held in the Dresden collection.

In 1932 the artistically ambitious young nonconformist Wolfgang Schulze, alias Wols, left Dresden for Paris, where in 1951, at the age of 38, he was to die. Paris, at that time the undisputed metropolis of modernity and the avant-garde, held a magical attraction for young artists from all over the world intent on establishing themselves as photographers. In the brief period between 1932 and 1939 Wols created an impressive body of photographic work, a medium that he abandoned after 1945, when his attention turned to drawing and painting; after his death, this important aspect of his oeuvre was largely forgotten.

This presentation of Wols’ photography in the Dresden Kupferstich-Kabinett will later also be shown in Berlin, at the Martin-Gropius-Bau (15 March to 22 June 2014), a venue renowned for important photographic exhibitions, and a further showing in Paris is planned for autumn 2014. This means that this previously little-known, but central, body of work can be explored to an unprecedented extent in places which were of great significance at various stages in the artist’s life. Wols was born in Berlin, and briefly returned there as a young man, drawn to the creative force field of the Bauhaus, by then already in the process of dissolution; it was here that he received what was to be artistically crucial advice to move to Paris. In Dresden, in the intellectual circle of Ida Bienert, he had already become acquainted while still in his teens with facets of international modernism. Paris was where he ultimately achieved artistic fulfilment and recognition.

The exhibition draws on the important resources preserved in the estate of the artist’s sister, Elfriede Schulze-Battmann, now held in the Kupferstich-Kabinett. In addition to correspondence, this archive contains more than 1,000 works, most of which are modern prints made in the 1960s and 1970s, and is the world’s most extensive collection of Wols’ photographic work.

The importance of Wols as a major figure of post-war modernism is underlined in two further exhibitions marking the 100th anniversary of his birth:

Kunsthalle Bremen: ‘Wols: Die Retrospektive’ (‘Wols. The Retrospective’) (13 April – 11 August 2013)

Museum Wiesbaden: ‘Wols: Das große Mysterium’ (‘Wols. The Great Mystery’) (17 October 2013 – 26 January 2014)

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