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Wols, Self Portrait (Wols making faces), 1940-41

In the act of seeing, one should not fixate upon what could be made of what one sees. One should see what actually is.” (Wols)
In 1932, at just nineteen years of age, Alfred Otto Wolfgang Schulze - whose pseudonym was derived from a 1937 telegram which accidentally shortened his name to 'WOLS' -, left Germany to live in the heart of the contemporary art world in Paris. In close contact with the great artists and poets of 1930s Paris, he launched his career as a self-taught artist using photography as his medium of choice. During the mid-1930s, he created his first drawings and watercolours are created under the influence of Parisian Surrealism. These works already hint at his intensive search for new pictorial worlds and exploration of novel creative processes. Over the course of these formative years, Wols’s pictorial language developed increasingly towards abstraction.
He started to paint in oils in 1946 at the suggestion of the art dealer René Drouin, who showed 40 of Wols’ paintings at his gallery in 1947 and introduced him to a wider public. His extraordinary formal language culminates in the relief-like surface textures of these works. The unique character of these works is based on the superimposed layers of paint and the so-called grattage technique in which Wols's works over the paint surface with his brush or paint tubes. His paintings helped pioneer Art Informel and Tachisme, which dominated European art during and after the 1950s.
Wols was born in Berlin in 1913. He died in 1951 of food poisoning and was buried at the famous Parisian cemetery Père Lachaise. He was posthumously represented in the first three documenta exhibitions in 1955, 1959 and 1964 in Kassel and at the Venice Biennale in 1958, with numerous subsequent exhibitions in renowned institutions worldwide. In 2013, on the occasion of his 100th birthday, The Menil Collection, Houston and the Kunsthalle Bremen honored Wols's important œuvre with a major retrospective.

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