Photos © Bernd Borchardt
E. W. Nay’s paintings are full of radiant colour and vitality. They are on a par with Henri Matisse’s cut outs and Ellsworth Kelly’s New York hard edge paintings of the 1960s.
Nay began his career in 1925 with Carl Hofer at the Hochschule in Berlin. The Nazis banned his work in 1937 denouncing it as “degenerate”. From 1950 onward, he achieved international acclaim particularly in the USA. Having moved to Cologne after a lifetime of work, he created a piece in the years leading up to his death in 1968 which is, at least by German standards, quite unique.
For the first time in forty years, his abstract works from this period will be presented in Berlin. Haus am Waldsee provides the perfect opportunity to rediscover one of the great German post-war painters and his highly relevant last works.
The exhibition presents 20 large paintings and 10 watercolours from the period between 1955 and 1968.
In 1956 Nay was in charge of the German pavilion at the Venice biennale. He took part in the 1964 documenta II. Intense discussions in the art world ensued: the “scandal” consisted in displaying his four by four metres “Augenbilder” (eye-pictures) on the ceiling instead of on the walls. Today these works can be found at the German chancellery.
By the beginning of the 1950s, Nay was already among the most widely discussed German artists of the post-war era. When he displayed a retrospective in 1952 in Berlin at Haus am Waldsee the press enthused that he was “the consummate modernist”. At the time, his works were in every self-respecting German museum of contemporary art.
“Ernst Wilhelm Nay: Colour – Paintings from the 1960s” is conducted under the auspices of Christina Rau.