For many artists, exile represented a dramatic break in their career. Emigration often meant the loss of museum commissions, scholarships, patrons and gallery owners. Not all the artists succeeded in making a new beginning abroad; many of them also fell into oblivion in Germany.
The Ludwig Meidner Archive handles a series of estates of such artists. Ludwig Meidner (1884-1966) is the most prominent among them and the Archive takes its name from him. The estate of this painter, draughtsman and writer, who became famous as an Expressionist and later devoted himself intensely to religious themes, contains about 2,000 works. The Archive strives to document his work, for example, by publishing a catalogue raisonné of his sketch books in 2013 or the work-in-progress on the catalogue raisonné of his paintings. It is also the owner of copyright on Meidner’s artistic oeuvre and deals with corresponding copyright issues.
Ludwig Meidner engaged intensely with the Jewish religion, but his oeuvre also reflects Jewish experiences with persecution by the National Socialists and emigration. When he heard about the genocide of European Jews while in exile in England, he painted a cycle of works on that theme.
Else Meidner, née Meyer, had launched out on a promising career as a painter and graphic artist in Berlin. This came to an abrupt end after 1933 and the artist did not succeed in building on her initial successes while in exile in London.
Kurt Levy fled to Colombia as a young man and began a successful career there as an artist. His paintings were marked by what was called Rhineland Expressionism and were very popular in Colombia. After his return to Germany, Levy developed a preference for vibrant colours, which he had got to know in the Tropics.
Arie Goral repeatedly took up motifs from Israel in his paintings. As early as 1934 he had emigrated to Palestine. Disappointed and traumatised by the war of independence, he left the country to live in Italy and finally in Hamburg. There, he mainly became known as a strident journalist.
The painter and stage designer H. Henry Gowa went underground in a southern French mountain village in 1943 to avoid deportation. In the post-war years he became a border-crosser between Germany and France and an active proponent of cultural exchange.
Letter from Ludwig Meidner to Jane Kern, neé Hannelore Rothschild, dated 13 February 1949
As we are not in a position to exhibit our artworks, especially as the costs are prohibitive, and as no one who is in any way an expert seems them, I no longer have any real judgement on them and no critical distance to my works.
Else Meidner, neé Meyer (1900-1987), former student and later wife of Ludwig Meidner, was also an artist. Her very promising career came to a halt in 1933, however, and she also failed to achieve the hoped for artistic breakthrough while in exile in England. The almost 2,200 works in her estate include not only paintings and etchings from her Berlin years, but also numerous oil paintings and drawings from her time in exile.
Whereas exile for the Meidners was a dramatic caesura in their work, it marked the beginning of a successful career for the artist Kurt Levy (1911-1987), whose estate contains 1,200 works. In the 25 years he lived in Columbia, he advanced to become a recognised artist and professor at Barranquilla University there, and his paintings were shown in numerous exhibitions.
Arie Goral (born Walter Sternheim, 1909-1996) gained fame as a poet and strident journalist. The 1,700 artworks in his estate, however, testify to the militant activist’s more sensitive side. Goral began painting in Israel, where he set up a painting school for children in a kibbutz.
H. Henry Gowa
The painter and stage designer H. Henry Gowa (born Hermann Gowa, 1902-1990) went underground in a southern French mountain village in 1943 so as to avoid deportation. The more than 1,200 work and countless documents in his estate show him to have been a border-crosser between Germany and France and a keen advocate of cultural exchange in the post-war years.
Ida („Adi“) Ritter
Ida (“Adi”) Ritter, née Lauinger (1900-1975) fled with her husband, the writer Fritz (Frederick) Ritter (1896-1987) in May 1939, first to the Bahamas and then to the United States. The 350 works in her estate are early works from her years in Berlin, paintings done during emigration and later works from the period when the Ritters were living in Switzerland.