Friday, August 6, 2010

Josef Scharl

 Josef Scharl, Self-Portrait, 1944

Josef Scharl (1896-1954), second of fourteen children, was born in Munich as son of a baker. From 1910  he studied decoration painting and restoration at the Munich School of Painters. In 1915 he was drafted into military service. War injuries and a temporary paralysis of his right arm forced Scharl to spend the last year of the war in military hospitals.

 Josef Scharl, Verlassenes Café, 1930

Back in Munich, Scharl enrolled at the Kunstakademie in 1919. He started to work as an independent artist in 1921, and one year later married Magdalena Gruber. Scharl joined the artist groups "Munich Secession" and "Die Juryfreien" and successfully participated in their exhibitions. In 1930 Scharl was awarded the prestigious Rome Prize. A scholarship enabled him to travel through Italy and France between 1930 and 1932.

Joseph Scharl, Killed in Action, 1932

After Scharl's return to Munich, the cultural climate in Germany had changed. Sales and exhibitions decreased, Scharl's financial situation worsened, and after the Nazis had seized power in 1933 he was banned from painting. Nevertheless, the gallery Karl Nierendorf continued to organize solo shows for him. In 1935 some of Scharl's works were included in a "degenerate" art exhibition in Nuremberg. Scharl's emigration plans were enforced by an invitation of the Museum of Modern Art in New York to participate in an exhibition of German art together with Max Beckmann, Georg Scholz, Erich Heckel and Karl Hofer.

Josef Scharl, Portrait of Albert Einstein, 1944

In 1939 Scharl emigrated to the USA. Albert Einstein, whom Scharl had met in Berlin, supported him financially and helped him to organise various exhibition projects. Scharl visited Einstein in Princeton several times and painted portraits of him. The years 1944-46 marked the peak of Scharl's success in the USA. He won the order of "Pantheon Books" to illustrate the Brother Grimm's Fairy Tales. The fairy tale book was a commercial success and further orders followed, but Scharl was burdened with worries for his family left behind in Germany, a serious stomach illness and the death of Karl Nierendorf in 1947.

Josef Scharl, Street Scene in Paris, 1930

In 1952 Scharl obtained US citizenship. The same year he travelled to Switzerland to take part in a group exhibition at the gallery George Moos in Geneva. The air in Switzerland had a positive effect on his health and many new works were executed. Scharl declined a professorship in Munich and returned to the United States  in 1953. Josef Scharl died one year later in New York after a heart attack. You can see more of his works at Galerie Nierendorf's website.


  1. just saw his work yesterday in Dresden, and I'm absolutely blown away by his style, and technique, he is truly amazing!