Werner Drewes, painter, printmaker, and teacher was born in Canig, Germany in 1899. His father, a Lutheran Minister, expected him to channel his artistic talents into a career as an architect, but Werner instead chose the vagabond life of an artist. After being drafted into the army and serving his term on the front line in France, Werner was admitted to the Bauhaus in 1921 where he studied under such artists as Klee, Itten, and Muche. Later, he traveled extensively throughout Italy and Spain to study such old masters as Tintoretto, Velasque, and El Greco. Werner survived by selling prints as postcards and the occasional commissioned piece. After marrying Margaret Schrobsdorff, a German nurse working in the Azores, they traveled throughout South America, North America, and Asia. Traveling was always an important source of inspiration for his work.

In 1930, Werner immigrated to New York City with his wife and two young sons. Later, in New York City, a third son was born. Under Hitler, Germany had become too restrictive an environment for an abstract artist. In New York City, despite the Depression, Werner joined other Bauhaus artists such as Mondrian and Feininger to make a living as an artist. This group became the core of the American Abstract Artists group. Werner taught at the Columbia University, worked on the design of the 1939 Worlds Fair building, and had shows at the Museum of Modern Art, the Kleeman Gallery, and elsewhere. In 1946, he accepted a tenured position at Washington University in St. Louis. With his sons grown, Werner’s financial burdens were somewhat eased and he was able to be more creative and productive, further fine-tuning his unique printmaking techniques and use of color. His wife pursued her own art form of weaving and rug making until her death in 1959.

Werner remarried a jeweler and fellow professor from Washington University, Mary Louise Lischer. They moved to Point Pleasant in Bucks County, Pennsylvania to enjoy a rural retirement yet still be near the art hub of New York City. Still lifes and landscapes, many in an abstract style, depict this era of his life. The colors in his work gained brilliance and balance.

Long winters led them to move once again. This time to Reston, Virginia. Here he continued his teaching, showing, creating, and traveling into his 85th year. Arthritis forced a new form of artistic expression: cut-out collages to add to his still growing collection of oils and prints. The Rose Catalog of his prints was published and several videos were taped of him in action and discussing his ideas and methods. He continued to show at major galleries in Germany, Turkey, and in the United States. The Smithsonian held a special show attributing his 65 years as a printmaker at the Museum for American Artists. To the very end, he cut his multiple plate color woodcuts, rubbed his prints by hand with a stylus and added stylistic innovations.

Today, this acclaimed artist has works shown at most major museums throughout the United States and in Europe. We hope you enjoy this small collection near the artist’s final home. If you are interested in more information about his life and would like to view a video of the artist at work, or are interested in purchasing other work by Werner Drewes, please inquire.

Karen E. Drewes Seibert
Granddaughter of the artist

The life of Werner Drewes

  • 1899

    Born in Canig, Germany
  • 1919-1920

    Studied architecture at the Technische Hochschule in Berlin-Charlottenburg and at the Stuttgart School of Arts and Crafts in Stuttgart
  • 1921-1922

    Studied Design at the Bauhaus (Weimar) with Klee, Itten and Schlemmer Weimar, Germany
  • 1923-1924

    To Italy and Spain to study the Old Masters
  • 1924-1927

    Worked way around the world as portrait painter and printmaker
  • Married weaver, Nurse Margaret Schrobsdorff
  • 1927-1928

    Studied again at the Bauhaus (Dessau) with Kandinsky and Feininger
  • 1930

    Emigrated to New York City, United States
  • 1934-36

    Taught at Brooklyn College under WPA sponsorship.
  • 1936

    Became a U.S. citizen and joined the American Artists Congress & Society Anonyme
  • 1937

    Founding member of the American Abstract Artists
  • 1937-1940

    Instructor in painting, drawing and printmaking, Columbia University, New York
  • 1940-1941

    Technical Supervisor/Director of the Graphic Arts Project of the WPA, New York
  • 1946

    Instructor in Design, Institute of Design, Chicago, lived with Maholy-Nagy
  • 1946-1965

    Professor of Design and Director of First Year Program, School of Fine Arts, Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri
  • 1947-1949

    Worked with Max Beckmann
  • 1965

    Retired from teaching and moved to Bucks County, Pennsylvania
  • 1972

    Moved to Reston, Virginia
  • Visiting Professor at George Mason Community College & Loudon Community College, Virginia
  • 1985

    One man show at the Smithsonian American Art Museum
  • 1985

    Died in Reston, Virginia