Between 1933 and 1945, whether for religious, political or artistic reasons, over 300 painters, sculptors and graphic artists fled into exile or immigrated to Great Britain from Nazi Germany. This followed the appointment of Adolf Hitler as German Chancellor in January 1933, the introduction of anti-Semitic legislation and the foundation of the Reichskulturkammer (the Reich Chamber of Culture) to which all professional artists and designers had to belong and which effectively banned all Jews, Communists, Social Democrats and ‘avant-garde’ artists from working in Germany.
This exhibition brings together paintings, drawings and graphics by a number of primarily German-Jewish artists who made such ‘forced journeys’ during this era, mostly to Great Britain, but also beyond to destinations including Australia, China, Jerusalem and the United States. One prominent exception is Max Liebermann, the celebrated German Impressionist, who did not leave his native country but, was forced to resign his post as Head of the Prussian Academy, and died two years later in 1935.
Other featured refugee artists include Frank Auerbach, today one of Britain’s most respected and best-known artists, but the exhibition also uncovers the exile narrative of many lesser-known artists, whose fractured careers and loss of reputation often resulted from their forced migrations, sometimes through more than one country of transit. The works on show have been drawn principally from the Ben Uri Collection, demonstrating the refugee contribution to both the collection and the institution's own exhibiting culture; both were profoundly changed in this period by what Chairman Israel Sieff termed the ‘Nazi philosophy’.