Freundlich, Otto

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FREUNDLICH, OTTO (1878–1943), German painter, sculptor, graphic artist, and teacher. Born into a Jewish family in Pomerania. Freundlich was educated by a foster mother in the Protestant tradition after the death of his mother. He studied history of art, then art; he traveled to Italy and Paris. From 1909, the year of his first exhibition, to 1914 he had a studio in Montmartre, where he worked with Picasso, Herbin, and Gris. Beside sculpture he was interested in the art of modern stained glass. He returned to Germany at the outbreak of World War i. Strongly sympathetic to the Left, Freundlich was a contributor to Die Aktion, a revolutionary anti-war publication in Berlin. Its September 1918 issue was dedicated to him and was illustrated with his drawings and woodcuts. After the war, he joined the short-lived November Group, which vainly endeavored to narrow the gap between the masses and the artists. Later he exerted a strong influence on the Dada movement. He returned to Paris in 1924 and took part in the exhibitions of the Abstraction-Creation group from 1932 to 1935. In 1936 he tried to establish a private academy but without success. In Nazi Germany, his works featured in the "Degenerate Art" show in 1937/38, and his near-abstract sculpture Homme Nouveau (1912) was singled out as an example of "Bolshevik-Jewish" art. When France was invaded in 1940, he fled to the Pyrenees but was caught by the Nazis and deported to Majdanek, where he perished. His works – sculpture, paintings, drawings, mosaics – were either close to pure abstraction or completely nonfigurative. The sculptures, often related to architecture, consist of rolling, cloud-like masses, joined together with great subtlety.

add. bibliography:

J. Heusinger, Otto Freundlich 1887–1943 (1978); G. Leistner, Otto Freundlich. Ein Wegbereiter der abstrakten Kunst (1994); J. Mettay, Die verlorene Spur. Auf der Suche nach Otto Freundlich (2005); O. Freundlich, Kraefte der Farbe (2001).

[Alfred Werner /

Sonja Beyer (2nd ed.)]