Fritz Ascher: Expressionist is the first-ever retrospective of an overlooked but significant German artist. Characterized by the Nazis as “degenerate” (along with other artists who were banned and persecuted), Fritz Ascher (1893–1970) survived two world wars, and then remained in Berlin where he lived and worked. In addition to painting and drawing, he turned to writing poetry later in life. Organized by the Fritz Ascher Society for Persecuted, Ostracized and Banned Art, Inc., the exhibition comprises some 75 paintings and works on paper, ranging from early academic studies and figural compositions to the artist’s late colorful, mystical landscapes devoid of human presence. Fritz Ascher: Expressionist will be on view at New York University’s Grey Art Gallery from January 9 through April 6, 2019.
Ascher developed his bold and colorful Expressionist style early in the 20th century. After the prominent Berlin painter Max Liebermann took Ascher under his wing, he studied at the Königsberg Art Academy, and then in Berlin with Lovis Corinth and Adolf Meyer. In 1914 Ascher traveled to Norway, where he met Edvard Munch. Several years later, during a prolonged stay in Bavaria, Ascher fell in with the artists of Die Brücke, as well as contributors to the satirical magazine Simplicissimus, including George Grosz and Käthe Kollwitz. Rachel Stern, curator of the show and director of the Fritz Ascher Society, observes: “Ascher belongs to a large group of prolific artists who were silenced by the Nazi terror regime, unable to work, exhibit, or sell their art.
This exhibition explores the situation of a German Jewish artist working in the face of political oppression.” Lynn Gumpert, the Grey’s director, adds: “Fritz Ascher: Expressionist fits our mission to bring to light artists whose works have not received the exposure they deserve. By situating Ascher’s art within historical, social, and cultural contexts, we can examine how one artist responded to conditions of political tyranny and extreme duress, a situation that, alas, is all too relevant today.”