Wols, Die Brücke (Camp), 1940–41, ink and watercolor on paper, 8 1/2 x 12".


The Menil Collection

Wols, Die Brücke (Camp), 1940–41, ink and watercolor on paper, 8 1/2 x 12".

When Wols, the preferred moniker for the German Informel artist Alfred Otto Wolfgang Schulze, first met Jean-Paul Sartre, he immediately established his affinity with the philosopher by reciting a passage from his well-known novel Nausea. If Wols’s position as one of Sartre’s chosen exemplars of existentialist angst has, with some recent exceptions, been the cornerstone of most French and English-language scholarship on his work, the tragic details of Wols’s biography—with special focus on his estrangement from his bourgeois family, his self-imposed exile and poverty in France, his incarceration for fourteen months in French internment camps, his alcoholism, and his failing mental health—have served as the primary framework for accounts of his art in Germany. The first American retrospective of the artist’s work, curated by Toby Kamps with art historian Ewald Rathke and

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