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
1899Born in Canig, Germany
1919-1920Studied architecture at the Technische Hochschule in Berlin-Charlottenburg and at the Stuttgart School of Arts and Crafts in Stuttgart
1921-1922Studied Design at the Bauhaus (Weimar) with Klee, Itten and Schlemmer Weimar, Germany
1923-1924To Italy and Spain to study the Old Masters
1924-1927Worked way around the world as portrait painter and printmaker
- Married weaver, Nurse Margaret Schrobsdorff
1927-1928Studied again at the Bauhaus (Dessau) with Kandinsky and Feininger
1930Emigrated to New York City, United States
1934-36Taught at Brooklyn College under WPA sponsorship.
1936Became a U.S. citizen and joined the American Artists Congress & Society Anonyme
1937Founding member of the American Abstract Artists
1937-1940Instructor in painting, drawing and printmaking, Columbia University, New York
1940-1941Technical Supervisor/Director of the Graphic Arts Project of the WPA, New York
1946Instructor in Design, Institute of Design, Chicago, lived with Maholy-Nagy
1946-1965Professor of Design and Director of First Year Program, School of Fine Arts, Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri
1947-1949Worked with Max Beckmann
1965Retired from teaching and moved to Bucks County, Pennsylvania
1972Moved to Reston, Virginia
- Visiting Professor at George Mason Community College & Loudon Community College, Virginia
1985One man show at the Smithsonian American Art Museum
1985Died in Reston, Virginia