Emil Schumacher

Biography of Emil Schumacher

German artist Emil Schumacher came of age in a turbulent time for his country and overcame numerous difficulties in his life to forge a personal and highly experimental approach to his artistic practice. He remains one of the most prized exponents of Abstract Expressionism in Germany.


Born in 1912 Emil Schumacher in North Rhine-Westphalia, by the age of 20 he began attending the School of Arts in Dortmund. By 1935 he was an independent artist but during World War II the young artist was conscripted into the war effort and worked in an arms factory from 1939-45.


In 1947 with a collection of artist friends Emil Schumacher founded the “Junger Westen” artist group. Their intention was to return the Ruhr district and Germany as a whole to its connection with Modern Art, something which had been lost through the influence of the Nazis. By 1950 Schumacher changed his style dramatically and turned away from painting objects to focus on the expressive power of painting and in so doing rejected naturalism in favor of abstraction with a focus on color, materials, and gesture.


This period of change precipitated a quick rise point in Emil Schumacher’s international profile and in 1958 he was awarded the Guggenheim Award in New York. That same year he participated in the Venice Biennale in Italy. In the 1960s and 70s Schumacher began experimenting with action painting. His final works were remarkable for their size which showcased an uninhibited painterly freedom. He even returned to representational art by referring to archaic motifs.


Emil Schumacher was commissioned in 1998 to produce a mural for the Reichstag in Berlin and a year later in 1999 he died in Ibiza. Highly regarded in mainland Europe, Schumacher played a prominent part in documenta III in Kassel in 1964. In 1998 a monumental retrospective of his work was exhibited at Munich’s Haus der Kunst. A skilled printmaker and producer of etchings, Emil Schumacher played a key role in the development of post-war German art.

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