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Ernst Wilhelm Nay (1902 - 1968)

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Biography

Ernst Wilhelm Nay was a German painter, born in Berlin. After completing his education at Thüringen in 1915, he returned to Berlin, where, with no formal tuition, he produced his first paintings: landscapes and portraits of his friends and family, for example Franz Reuter (1925; Hamburg, Ksthalle). On the basis of these he was accepted as a scholarship student at the Berlin Akademie by Karl Hofer in 1925; the tonal painting being practised there, however, had little relevance to him. In 1928 he went to Paris, where he became especially interested in the work of Nicolas Poussin. In 1931, after showing works in various exhibitions, Nay was awarded the Staatspreis of the Preussische Akademie, which involved a nine-month stay at the Villa Massimo in Rome. His small-scale animal pictures, verging between Surrealism and abstraction, gave way in the succeeding years, during which he spent the summer months in Pomerania on the Baltic coast, to pictures of Baltic fishermen such as the Departure of the Fisherman (1936; Hannover, Sprengel Mus.). The formal basis of his art first took shape in these works, with primeval forms arranged in rhythmic movement. In the 1930s and 1940s these were always coupled with mythical settings, in which, according to Nay, a deeper reality could be discerned.

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