Oil on canvas; 81,6 x 100,6 cm; 1935-1936; in moma (Ger., Eng.) since 1940. In an article for the catalogue of the 1964 exhibition of the Kestner-Gesellschaft in Hannover* the director of the moma says that it possibly was Paul ÉLUARD (Ger., Eng.), who brought Richard OELZE to his (BARR’s, Ger., Eng.) attention for the exhibition “Fantastic Art, Dada, Surrealism” in New York 1936. Fortunate circumstances allowed the moma to buy the picture in 1940, and “… so far as I know OELZE’s painting, Expectation, is exceptional, perhaps unique.”
Who is OELZE?
I stumbled upon Richard OELZE (1900-1980) (Ger., Eng.) in a book** about Worpswede (Ger., Eng.) – but he is far from being ein Worpsweder (interesting exhibition here). He certainly does not belong to this “group” – if there ever was one after WWI -, basically he belongs to no one except himself. When he finally came to Worpswede, with 46, he was unknown to the German public; and this would have stayed this way, if he had not re-located circa 16 years later to the town of Hameln, where he came to know Wieland SCHMIED (Ger., outdated), the man who organized the first large exhibition of OELZE’s works in Germany, mentioned above. Before WWII OELZE was recognized especially by the French critics, and his “Erwartung” already hung in the moma by 1940; the French critic Marcel BRION (Ger., Eng.) wrote a special analysis of the picture – there was no reaction in Germany, and after 16 years in Worpswede and basically no support by the official authorities of Bremen or Lower-Saxony, the move towards Hameln must have been a kind of redemption.
OELZE was a disciple of the Bauhaus from 1921 to 1925, lived from 1926 to 1929 in Dresden, 1930/31 in Ascona and 1931/32 in Berlin. He was aware of and took part in all the developments of the 1920s and 1930s in Germany and Europe. The main decisive years for him were the years in Paris from 1032 to 1936, where he came in contact with the surrealists, BRETON, DALI, and ELUARD with whom he became friends. From 1937 to 1939 he is on the road again, Swiss, Italy, no place, no home. He came to Worpswede in 1939, but seemingly more or less accidentally. From 1939 to 1945 he served in Hitler’s war; after this and war captivity he had no other place to go to and returns to the hamlet in the moors, to stay there for 16 years. The fact that he had made some friends here, who supported him materially too, surely played a role.
The public recognition comes to him after the 1964 exhibition, and the official cultural Betrieb throws prizes at him.
I personally doubt that he was especially proud of these, but I may be wrong. His oeuvre did not end in the Sixties, he stayed active and productive until the later years. He could be counted to the verschollene Generation I guess. More on this later. As I see it now he has no monography, but I did no serious search.
* Wieland Schmied (Ed.): Richard Oeltze. Oevre-Katalog 1925-1964, 2.ed. 1964 (Katalog Kestner-Gesellschaft Hannover, 1964/65, 1)
** Albrecht, Herbert: Worpswede. Kunst in der Landschaft, Fischerhude 1981.
ALBRECHT (*1905) is originally an architect; from 1946 to 1953 he teaches at the Staatliche Kunsthochschule Bremen, since then freelance writer. I have no idea whether he’s still alive or what he published in his own Verlag Atelier im Bauernhaus except the cited title.