film frame, 1920s
 
Friedl Dicker was born into a Jewish family in 1898 in Vienna.
In 1919-1923, she studied in Bauhaus, Weimar with Johannes Itten, Paul Klee, Oskar Schlemmer, Georg Muche.
In 1921-1936 she worked in interior, textile, theater design.
In 1936 she married and changed her last name to Brandeisova.
In 1934-1942 she left constructivism for still-lifes, landscapes and portraits. She paints and teaches art to children.
In 1942 she was deported to the Terezin concentration camp.
In 1942-1944 she taught art to hundreds of children in the camp.
In 1944 she perished in Auschwitz.
 
 
     Prehistory

Tulips, 1920s

Tulips, 1920
A broader audience is familiar with the story of Friedl's selfless work with the children of the Terezin ghetto/concentration camp, 1943-44 (these 5000 children's drawings are primarily stored at the Jewish Museum in Prague). Scholars of Bauhaus history know Friedl as a student of Johannes Itten, Walter Gropius, Paul Klee, her typography for the "Utopia" almanac published in every major catalogue of Bauhaus, as well as her lithographs.



Anna Selbdritt, 1921
The architecture historians remember the production of the Singer-Dicker atelier in Vienna -- a unique kindergarten, interior designs and exquisite furniture. Textile specialists know of Friedl's unsurpassed laces, tapestries and textiles (shown at exhibitions of the 1930s throughout Europe). Theater experts study her scenic and costume designs for the theaters of Brecht and Viertel... But Friedl was something bigger than just an arithmetic sum of all these applications.

Friedl often didn't sign her works (for example, her 60 last works from Terezin do not bear any signature). She gave them to her friends, left them at neighbors or offered them as gifts to her pupils. Before her deportation to Terezin she distributed her remaining works to acquaintances and to relatives of her husband, Pavel Brandeis.

Her works from Terezin were found just recently (now at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Los Angeles, over 130 pieces). The letters of Friedl were also not available until recent years (100 letters of 1938-42 to her friend Hilde Kothny, and multitude letters to her friend Anny Wottitz-Moller.)

 
     Exhibition



Interrogation II, 1934
Friedl Dicker-Brandeis was almost forgotten for the last 50 years. Her previous exhibitions -- Darmstadt (1970), Prague (1988), Moscow (1988), Vienna (1989), Basel (1989), Jerusalem (1990), and Frankfurt (1991) -- only partially described the life and art of this outstanding artist, designer and teacher. Only recently have all the pieces of this mysterious woman been placed together.

By 1999, our research group started an international traveling exhibition Friedl Dicker-Brandeis. Life in Art and Teaching, published a catalogue with 240 color reproductions, biography and numerous memories and abstracts, and prepared a CD catalogue of her main art pieces.



Model for a toy constructor, 1928
The exhibition depicts Friedl in a whole new light - versatile and complete, it tries to catch the likeness of the multiple areas of her artistic expression. For example, her "constructivist" works of Bauhaus are different from the "realistic" pastels and oils of Prague and Hronov, her practical designs contrast with her passionate flowers. Her works in Terezin are different from anything that other artists in the ghetto created. But one can always recognize Friedl. The secret of her "recognizability" is in her composition, the texture of her hand, an incredible energy of her line. It was her unique ability -- to see the big and the small at once -- to see the smallest details, and at the same time not to forget the "main issues".

 
     Quotations from the catalogue




Portrait of Josef Deutsch, 1925
Georg Eisler, Austrian painter: "Now, when painting has become my entire life and has brought me success, I clearly realize how much I am indebted to Friedl. She 'gave me my start,' gave me the sense of painting as a way of life. I owe that to her. It's bitter to think how all the efforts to get her out of Czechoslovakia in 1939 were unsuccessful. That would have been important not only for her, but for the entire world of art. It was only after the war that I saw her work. And I was stunned by the revelation--here's the sort of artist who had taught me then, a ten-year-old boy! And I recalled the large sheets of paper, the freedom to do whatever you wanted, and the warmth she radiated. I would say that it was a maternal warmth..."



Edith Kramer, Exercise, ca. 1936
Professor Edith Kramer, American artist and art therapist: "Nobody on earth could have given me what she did--an understanding of a thing's essence and the non-acceptance of lies and manneredness. She was one possessed, unbelievably temperamental, passionate--she either loved something or she hated it. And she couldn't endure hypocrisy at all!"
 
from the interviews for the film "Black and White is Full of Colors", 1994, Argo-film, Israel




Landscape, ca. 1920s
Professor Erna Furman, pediatrician: "Friedl's teaching, the times spent drawing with her, are among the fondest memories of my life. The fact that it was Terezin made it more poignant but it would have been the same anywhere in the world´┐Ż I learned lots of other things in camp too. Terezin had many world famous specialist in every field and most of them were glad to give lessons or seminars for bread (I was glad to give my bread for this better nourishment!). I learned philosophy, economics, Rorschach testing, etc. But I think Friedl was the only one who taught without ever asking for anything in return. She just gave of herself."

from a letter to Elena Makarova, 1989



Untitled, 1944, Terezin
Friedl knew how to distinguish the central and peripheral things. The central (they are also the banal) - flowers, trees, landscapes, houses, the line, texture, composition, chiaroscuro. The peripheral were the conditions, which she had to live in. Even in the most terrible ones - the life in a concentration camp - Friedl found the sense of life in the children and in her art. She couldn't brighten the grim reality of the camp so she chose to just ignore it. She looked at something else. Her look was pointed at the children, she spent all her time with them, she looked into the eternity. The reaction to the current events only muddles the consciousness -- her tired, aching eyes still saw the beauty of a flower, the inspiration of a face.

The children (more then 600) didn't copy Friedl, - she never showed them her works, - but they were greatly influenced by her. Today they all tell that she was "the mystery of beauty", "the mystery of freedom". Friedl's personality, the mystery of her art, her innovative teaching methods, her artistic vision, is the focus of our exhibition.

Exhibition

Chronologically placed expositions of her life in Bauhaus, Berlin, Vienna, Prague, Hronov show how Friedl dealt with her time, how she influenced it, and how time influenced her. The design and colors of the exhibition space follow the darkening of the world from 1919 to 1944. From bright and joyful years of her study in Bauhaus, Weimar, through growing maturity and productiveness in Berlin and Vienna, to political troubles and exile in Prague and Hronov, to black years of Terezin.

The exhibition organization and design also express the unity of Friedl's art. Links are drawn between the basic exercises on form and color in Bauhaus and the children's drawings in Terezin; the space and furniture design in Vienna atelier and the children's rooms in Terezin; the theater designs in Bauhaus, Berlin, Vienna and her theater designs created in Terezin; etc.

Our exhibition contains art works of Friedl and her pupils, and objects (pieces of furniture, toy constructor, notebooks, books, etc.). The exhibition is divided into 6 sections. Each section also shows the unique photos and documents, related to Friedl and her surroundings, as well as explanatory texts. Every section is architecturally distinct.

Sections:


Friedl, 1936

    1. Vienna (1898-1919) - childhood, early works.
    2. Bauhaus, Weimar (1919-1923) - Friedl's art and designs in Bauhaus, theater design, book binding, prints.
    3. Berlin-Vienna (1923-1934) - architectural designs, furniture, textile designs and prints, graphic works, and works of her student Edith Kramer
    4. Prague (1934-1938) - Friedl's oil paintings, pastels, graphics, drawings by German immigrant's children.
    5. Hronov (1938-1942) - "Friedl's library," oil paintings, pastels, graphics.
    6. Section 6:
      1. Terezin (1942-1944) - art works of Friedl, drawings of her pupils (originals and copies), organized according to subject matter (education methods, design of children's rooms, etc.)
      2. Friedl's legacy (stories of those who didn't survive and of the survivors in different countries.

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