With around eighty objects, the exhibition traces the work, thought, and life of an artist who produced not only paintings and sculptures but also stained-glass windows and mosaics, and who in a searching reflection on the leading art movements of his time found his own path to abstraction—before being marginalized by the Nazis, denounced as “degenerate,” and ultimately murdered as a Jew.
This discrimination and eradication of both Freundlich and his work have marked the artist’s reception to this day. Many of his works were destroyed in Germany under National Socialism. His Großer Kopf (Large Head), which the Nazis reproduced on the cover of their guide to the Entartete Kunst (Degenerate Art) exhibition in 1938, remains his most famous work even today. This retrospective demonstrates that the Nazis not only falsified the title of the work (they gave it the title “The New Man” by which it is still known today), but even the sculpture itself: at least at one venue on the Degenerate Art touring exhibition they presented a crude copy in place of the original. The Museum Ludwig is now providing visitors a chance to encounter Freundlich’s entire oeuvre and places it at the center of contemporaneous art-historical developments. It begins with the heads he drew and sculpted around 1910 and features his little-known applied artworks alongside his sculptures, paintings, and gouaches. Moreover, it offers insights into Freundlich’s writings, in which he positioned his work in its social and artistic context.