This painting titled ‘winter day just before midday’ dates from 1922. When I saw it I was keen to know more about the artist behind it, and just what inspired him to be so far ahead of his time. In the first instance Paul’s mum was an amateur painter and his dad a professor of music, so he had a head start growing up in a creative home.
He studied art in Munich in 1898, where he excelled in drawing. However his sense of colour remained undeveloped until he experienced the bold use of it by the emerging Cubist movement. After a visit to Tunisia he wrote, “Colour has taken possession of me; no longer do I have to chase after it, I know that it has hold of me forever… colour and I are one. I am a painter.”
He became an art teacher after a spell painting camouflage on First World War airplanes. Despite this the Nazis singled him out for being Jewish, and he lost his job. He took refuge in Switzerland in 1933 where doctors discovered he had a wasting disease. His son placed the following remark on his tombstone after he could no longer sustain the fight, although he painted in great pain until the end.
“I cannot be grasped in the here and now … for my dwelling place is as much among the dead as the yet unborn … slightly closer to the heart of creation than usual, but still not close enough”.