The art of Maximilian Klewer (1891–1963) is in a category of its own: precise and naturalistic in representation, enigmatic and ambiguous in import. Born in Barmen (Wuppertal), Klewer studied in Berlin starting in 1911 and taught drawing at the academy of fine arts there from 1919. He produced his most forceful works in the years between the two world wars.

Like Lotte Laserstein (1898–1993), an artist seven years his junior, Klewer developed his art from academic tradition. For form and content alike, he drew on numerous sources of his past and present. The symbolist pictorial language of Franz von Stuck or Gustav Klimt, for example, echoes in his work, as do impulses from variety shows and silent films. Above all, however, it was the self-portrait that became a means of critical examination and a field of artistic experimentation for Klewer. Among other things, he processed his experiences as a medical orderly during World War I in this genre. With intense, pantomimically exaggerated expression, he cast himself as the protagonist of pictorial worlds that range from the ironic to the surreally symbolistic.

The Städelscher Museums-Verein’s purchase of eight drawings and a painting by Maxilimilian Klewer provided the occasion for this cabinet exhibition. Supplemented with two loans from private holdings, the concentrated selection permits the rediscovery of an artist who sank into oblivion after World War II.