Otto Neumann was a 20th century German Expressionist. Born in Heidelberg, Germany in 1895, he was the son of Fritz Neumann, the renowned Professor of Romance Languages at the University of Heidelberg. The young Neumann grew up surrounded by his father's friends, luminaries like Max Weber and Ernst Troeltch. In these culturally rich surroundings and under the influence of family and intellectual and thoughtful friends, the artist developed a lifelong appreciation of poetry, literature, and music.
Neumann began his artistic training at the Academie der Bildenden Kunst and studied with several noted German artists. In 1929, Neumann married Hilde Rothschild, who became a major force in his artistic and personal life. It was Hilde, herself a pianist and an accomplished weaver, who persuaded Otto not to destroy the early work that he considered irrelevant to his more recent efforts thus guaranteeing that his legacy would be extensive and complete. Neumann never considered himself a member of any particular group, seeing himself, perhaps inaccurately, as too young to be an expressionist and too old for Bauhaus, though he absorbed what he found most visually and intellectually compelling from members of each group.
Neumann’s artistic career went through a progressive series of changes. In his early years as a professional painter Otto Neumann supported himself by painting and painted numerous portraits in oil of the university community. However, as he acquired greater financial freedom he abandoned commissioned portraiture altogether, finding it less inspiring than his more imaginative literary and religious works. Likewise, in the early 1920s, Neumann chose to discard oils as a medium and began using watercolors for their ability to express a greater sense of immediacy and looseness; still later, at the end of the forties, he entirely discontinued the use of watercolors in favor of various graphic media. Neumann's pattern of exploring varying media, of taking the best from many styles and even changing the way he conceived the human form, became a characteristic of his artistry.
It was in the 1950s that Neumann's earlier obsession with the neoclassically rendered figure was reawakened. His renewed focus manifested itself in a more direct, albeit elegantly drawn, handling of classical motifs and forms. The artist had clearly been studying ancient Greek vases and the simple, lined forms that graced their sides. Neumann's figures are modernized versions of the Greek models; they reveal the influence of a modern stylistic trend that he admired in the work of such diverse contemporary artists as Picasso, Matisse, and Henry Moore, all of whom incorporated simple line drawing based on ancient Greek styles in their handling of the human figure. Later in life, especially after the death of his wife, Neumann's trademark monotypes and hand-pulled woodblocks and linocuts became ever more abstract.
Otto Neumann died on January 2, 1975 in Munich, Germany.
Museum Retrospective Exhibitions:
Gibbes Museum of Art, Charleston, NC. April 2007 with introduction by Dr. David M. Sokol, Professor Emeritus of Art History at the University of Illinois, Chicago, Illinois.
2017 TEW Galleries Salon Show, Atlanta, GA
Art Institute of Chicago
Burpee Art Museum
Detroit Institute of Arts
Goethe Institute, Chicago
Kurpfalzisches Museum, Heidelberg
Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
Portland Museum of Art, Portland, OR
Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University
Staatliche Graphische Summlung, Munchen
Stadtische Galerie, Munchen
Stadtische Summlung, Dusseldorf
Tampa Art Museum, Tampa, FL
University of Illinois at Chicago
University of Michigan Alumni Memorial Museum of Art
Virginia Museum of Art
Benedictine University, River Forest, Illinois
Gahlberg Gallery, Glen Ellyn, Illinois
Gibbes Museum of Art, Charleston, S.C
Kohnline Gallery, Des Plaines, Illinois
Maier Museum, R-MWC, Lynchberg, Virginia
Newberry Library, Chicago, Illinois
Numerous catalogs and articles
Otto Neumann, His Life and Work, by Dr. David M. Sokol, Professor Emeritus of Art History at the University of Illinois, Chicago, Illinois. Hardcover, published by Prologue Press, Chicago, IL. ISBN-13:978-0-9789270-0-4
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