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Felix Nussbaum (1904 - 1944)

Felix Nussbaum is an important German surrealist artist born in 1904 in Osnabrück. From a middle-class family, his father painted as a hobby and encouraged Nussbaum to become an artist. During his formative years as an artist Nussbaum abandoned religion only later re-exploring his Jewish identity during the Holocaust and became a resistance painter.

Nussbaum began his formal studies in the art metropolis of Berlin in 1920 and in 1932, he enrolled at the German Academy in Rome after being awarded a grant. Artists such as a Vincent van Gogh, Giorgio de Chirico and Henri Rousseau proved to be a huge inspiration to him. In 1933 Nussbaum was forced to leave his studies due to the rise of Adolf Hitler.

Nussbaum was one of a group of artists who lived in exile in Ostend on the coast of Belgium in the mid-30s. This period of his work features many port scenes painted from various angles. In 1936 he finally settled in Brussels with fellow artist and long-term partner Felka Platek, whom he married a year later. While his parents stayed in Nazi Germany, Nussbaum fled to Belgium, however, during the attack in 1940 he was taken to the Saint-Cyprien camp in France. Nussbaum was later transferred to Brussels, where he briefly reunited with his wife and lived in hiding. He continued his work through the generosity of his friends, who took him in and provided him with art materials.

In 1944 Nussbaum’s parents were killed in Auschwitz, meanwhile, he and his wife were discovered by the German armed forces and sent to the Mechelen transit camp, later to Auschwitz where he was murdered.

Nussbaum’s perseverance as an artist, in the most impossible of circumstances, gives viewers an understanding of his life as a victim of the Holocaust. His work can be found in the prestigious Neue Galerie in New York as well as the Jewish Museum in Brussels and has been exhibited at the Goethe Institute in Bruels in 1982. In 1988 the Felix Nussbaum Haus in Osnabrück opened, dedicated entirely to his works.
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