To be included in the forthcoming Felix Nussbaum Catalogue Raisonné, being prepared by Inge Jaehner, Felix Nussbaum Haus, Osnabruck.
Felix Nussbaum's oeuvre is a masterful, painterly testimony of one man's alienation, exile and fate in the vortex of the Holocaust. The artist was born in Osnabruck in 1904 to Philipp and Rahel Nussbaum, a well-off Jewish industrial family.
From the outset, Philipp, himself an enthusiastic amateur artist, encouraged his son's prodigious talent. "No-one could have foreseen that the works that remained....the heritage of a painter who had been entirely forgotten by art historians after his death, his murder in the gas chamber at Auschwitz, would find their way into international
museums; nor that they would have their own home in a museum in Osnabruck ..to stand a reminder of Germany's recent past, and as a warning." (K. G. Kaster, ed., Felix Nussbaum, Art Defamed, Art in Exile, Art in Resistance a Biography, New York, 1997, p. 17).
"His Still Life paintings from the 1930s onwards work on two levels: the formal depiction of objects as well as a deep awareness of the precarious world in which he existed. Despite the evidently formal concerns in these works, Nussbaum still appears to be reflecting his own situation: standing still, disorientation, confusion." (Ibid.,p. 270).
Surrealistisches Stilleben acknowledges and grapples with stylistic concerns of his Surrealist period, a short phase during 1938/9 to which this work dates. The work is also deeply political and prescient of a world out of control. The ladder of escape leans precariously on a tilted globe. A black limbless mannequin stands on the ladder with a white armless and legless mannequin at the foot of the ladder - black and white figures in a world where there is no justice and nothing is clear cut. Both figures are blocked by green and brown walls that have the black outlines of cinder blocks drawn on them.
"Through Nussbaum's art we can trace the story of one individual and his interaction with the historical forces of his time, forces that led him from a comfortable middle-class existence to the anxiety of exile, and finally to the terror of life in hiding and eventual death at the hands of the Nazis." (E.D. Bilski, Art and Exile Felix Nussbaum 1904-1944, New York, 1985, p. 21.)