Werner Drewes


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Painter, printmaker, and occasional sculptor. Born in Canig, Germany, he served in the German army during World War I and began his professional training in Berlin and Stuttgart before studying at the Bauhaus. In 1921–22, when the school was in Weimar, he worked with Johannes Itten and Paul Klee. For the next several years, Drewes traveled around the world and visited the United States. After the Bauhaus had moved to Dessau, he returned in 1927–28 to work with Kandinsky and Lyonel Feininger. He moved permanently to the United States in 1930. During the Depression years, he was employed by federal art projects, and in 1936, the year he became a citizen, he participated in establishing the American Abstract Artists. He also worked at Atelier 17 before moving in the mid-1940s to St. Louis, where he taught at Washington University until 1965. As one of Kandinsky's closest followers in the United States, Drewes maintained an extensive correspondence with him while developing a painting style reflecting the hard-edge abstraction of Kandinsky's Bauhaus years. Drewes also shared his teacher's philosophy of art, believing that art could express spiritual universals. In characteristic paintings of the 1930s and 1940s, geometric and biomorphic forms float in ambiguous spaces. As an active printmaker who specialized in woodcuts, often in color, he made many abstract prints before the mid-1940s. Later, working in a vigorous and expressionistic descriptive style, he specialized in landscapes but also produced strong self-portraits. Printed in cool blue, lavender, and green relieved with touches of orange-red, Cliffs on Monhegan Island (1969) offers a semi-abstract treatment of rocks and pine trees forcefully jutting into a sky filled with angular indications of clouds. Infrequently, Drewes also produced sculpture, including a prize-winning Plexiglas abstraction of 1939. He died in Reston, Virginia, where he had lived for nearly twenty years.

Subjects: Art.

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