Saturday, August 21, 2010

Arthur Kaufmann

 Arthur Kaufmann, Self-Portrait, 1931

Arthur Kaufmann (1888-1971) was born in Mühlheim, an industrial town in the Ruhr Valley. From 1904 to 1906 he studied at the Düsseldorf School of Applied Arts. During the next years, he visited Italy England and France where he continued his studies with  Le Fauconnier in Paris at the prestigious Académie Julian.

Arthur Kaufmann, Lady in Black Coat, 1926

He was a founding member of Das Junge Rheinland (Young Rhineland), a stylistically diverse group co-led by Herbert Eulenberg, Gerd Wollheim, and Adolf Uzarski, which was united by a rejection of academic art. Other members included Otto Dix and Jankel Adler. During this era, he created such masterpieces as The Contemporaries (below) and a portrait of Jankel Adler (1927).

Arthur Kaufmann, The Contemporaries, 1925. The Painting shows members of the artist's association "Das Junge Rheinland" (The Young Rhineland). Lower row left to right: Gert Wollheim, Johanna Ey, Karl Schwesig, Adalbert Trillhaase. Upper Row left to right:Herbert Eulenberg, Theo Champion, Jankel Adler, Hilde Schewior, Ernst te Peerdt, Arthur Kaufmann, Walter Ophey, Otto Dix, Lisbeth Kaufmann, Hans Heinrich Nicolini.

Jewish in origin, Kaufmann was labeled "degenerate" by the Nazis in 1933 and discharged - along with Paul Klee (Klee's self-portrait Struck from the List (1933) commemorates the sad occasion), as well as many more of his colleagues - from his post at the Düsseldorf School of Applied Arts. Kaufmann relocated to the Netherlands, and then to the United States, where he embarked upon a career as a celebrated portrait painter. 

 Arthur Kaufmann, Untitled, c. 1930

In the United States, Kaufmann specialized in depictions of well-known men, including Edward G. Robinson, Albert Einstein, and George Gershwin (whose affidavit was responsible for Kaufmann's safe departure from Germany). His portrait of Gershwin is now held by the National Portrait Gallery at the Smithsonian Institution. Kaufmann died in 1971 in Novo Friburgo, Brazil, during a stay with his daughter.

Arthur Kaufmann, The Intellectual Emigration, 1938-1965

Kaufmann's best known work today is the above tryptich Die Geistige Emigration (The Intellectual Emigration) which he started painting in 1938 and only completed in 1965. It depicts 38 German and Austrian celebrities (including Thomas Mann, Albert Einstein, Ernst Bloch and George Grosz) who emigrated to the United States after 1933. You can see Arthur Kaufmann next to his wife far right in the middle row.


  1. very nice article,,i m collectiong some celebrity self shots in my blog too, pls take a look
    Naked women,sexy shot

  2. I am lucky to own an original etching by Kaufmann and he has become of my favorite avant garde artists.