Artist biography

German painter, draughtsman, photographer and illustrator.

In 1932 Wols travelled to Frankfurt am Main to study anthropology. He then moved to Berlin and entered the Bauhaus, recently transferred from Dessau. After only a few weeks Moholy-Nagy advised him to move to Paris. He soon met many artists associated with the Surrealist movement. Wols spent the remainder of 1932 in Paris, producing his first paintings but also working as a photographer.

At the outbreak of World War II Wols was interned for 14 months. During this period he concentrated on ink drawings of the sort he had been producing since 1932.

He started to paint in oils in 1946. This new development in his art proved enormously influential, earning him the praise of artists such as Mathieu and critics such as Michel Tapié, who coined the term Art autre to describe their post-war work.

In 1947 Wols fell ill but lacked the money to go to hospital, and throughout 1948 he worked largely in bed. In the last few years of his life he continued to produce fantastic ink and wash drawings. Undergoing treatment for alcoholism, he moved to the country at Champigny-sur-Marne, south-east of Paris, in June 1951. His early death later that year from food poisoning helped foster the legendary reputation that grew up around him soon afterwards. His paintings helped pioneer Art informel and Tachism. Influenced by the writings of the Chinese Daoist philosopher Laozi, Wols also wrote poems and aphorisms that expressed his aesthetic and philosophical ideas.

Bibliography
R. Guilly: Wols (Paris, 1947)
H.-P. Roché: Wols (Paris, 1958)
Wols (exh. cat. by W. Grohmann, Paris, Gal. Europe, 1959)
Wols: Peintures et gouaches 1932–1942 (exh. cat. by W. Haftmann, Paris, Gal. Europe, 1961)
Wols 1913–1951: Gemälde, Aquarelle, Zeichnungen (exh. cat. by W. Haftmann, W. Berlin, N.G., 1973)
Wols: Photograph (exh. cat. by L. Glozer, Hannover, Kestner-Ges., 1978)
Wols 1913–1951: Aquarelle, Druckgraphik (exh. cat. by K. Weber, Kassel, Staatl. Kstsammlungen, 1985)
Wols: Drawings and Watercolours (exh. cat. by E. Rathke, London, Goethe-Inst., 1985)
Wols: Bilder, Aquarelle, Zeichnungen, Photographien, Druckgraphik (exh. cat. by E. Rathke and others, Zurich, Ksthaus; Düsseldorf, Kstsamml. Nordrhein–Westfalen; 1989–90)

PHILIP COOPER

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