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Conrad Felixmuller

Cover: Death of the Poet Walter Rheiner 1925 – Los Angeles County Museum

The outbreak of war in 1914 was to be Felixüller's most significant experience, one which shaped his artistic attitude for the rest of his life. From the very beginning he felt revulsion towards the events of the time, and he was one of the few people who refused to join in the patriotic war euphoria. Felixmüller also began to think of his art as a form of political commitment.

In 1915 he travelled to Berlin, where he met a number of people who became important for his further work. He joined Pfemfert's circle of artists and writers. In his magazine, Pfemfert took an uncom­promising stand against the bourgeoisie and militarism, while at the same time rejecting any form of aestheticism. Through him, Felixmüller met Meidner, Raoul Hausmann, Grosz, Herzfelde and the poet Theodor Daubler, who had similar artistic and political views.

Felixüller's pictorial idiom drew upon two artistic sources. While in Dresden, the Brücke artists - even though they had been unable to influence official art - left their mark on the young Felixmüller. His formal repertoire, on the other hand, benefitted from the achieve­ments of Cubism. But although Felixmüller never gave up the unity of space in his paintings, he simplified the motifs by composing them from angular, block-like shapes. "Without being a 'Cubist'," he said, "I imposed the form of nature on the basic shape, on 'absolute form'.".

Felixmüller's art is never impartial. His pictures always express solidarity with the harsh living and working conditions of the common people, particularly miners. In this he was closer to Dix for a while - whose friendship he enjoyed for a brief period - than Grosz with his political agitation. Workers on Their Way Home  of 1921 and Factory Workers in the Rain (1922) as well as Death of the Poet Walter Rheiner  are typical examples of Felixüller's Expressionist paintings. When Felixmüller was offered a scho­larship in Rome in 1920, he decided to study the heavily industrialized Ruhr area instead.

He was also actively involved in the German Communist Party. In the mid-twenties, however, he realized that his revolutionary aims had failed and therefore changed his artistic style. His expressive distortions and harsh colours disappeared and were replaced by a Naturalist con­cept of space and more restrained colours. The private subjects, which had always been present in his politically committed work, now came to the fore. 

Expressionism Diemar Elger