ARTISTS / Art after 1945
Ernst Wilhelm Nay


Available works
1902born in Berlin
1921after graduating from high school, apprenticeship in book trade; occasional jobs; attempts at painting
1924-28encouraged by Karl Hofer to study art in Berlin
1930scholarship on the Danish island of Bornholm
1931Villa Massimo scholarship
1933vilification by the Nazis
1937Trip to Norway with financial support from Edvard Munch; "Lofoten" paintings
1942military cartographer in France
1945-49"Hekate" pictures
1949-51"Fugal pictures": move to Cologne
1952-53"Rhythmic Pictures
1954-62growing fame with the so-called "Scheibenbilder"; 1955 manifesto "Vom Gestaltwert der Farbe" ("On the value of color as a form")
1955/59/64participation at the Documenta in Kassel
1956represents Germany at the Venice Biennale
1963-64"Eye Pictures
1965beginning of "Late Pictures
1968died in Cologne
Ernst Wilhelm Nay was instrumental in establishing Modernism in Germany after World War II. In the years after 1945, Nay breaks away from the influence of Surrealism and Expressionism. In 1950 the autonomy of color forms grows, the representational disappears completely from his paintings. Nay finds color, which no longer means anything except itself, which is purified of all representational references as a pure form value. In his "Rhythmic Pictures", which he began in 1951, he used color as a pure form value. Since 1955, he creates his "disk pictures", in which round color surfaces organize subtle spatial and color modulations in the picture.
The common thread through Nay's work is a rhythmic buildup of tension in his composition through line work, especially through the play of color. Nay's lifelong concern is to create the "elemental picture", to achieve all rhythm and dynamics through the color, the most elemental representation. 
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