09 Jan — 07 Feb 2020
We are presenting an exhibition of paintings by Albert Reuss at Truro Cathedral to mark Holocaust Memorial Day on 27 Jan.
Albert Reuss was a Jewish painter and sculptor born in Vienna who came to England in 1938 following Hitler’s annexation of Austria. Reuss lost many members of his family as well as his possessions and the reputation he had built up as an artist. He continued to work in England but his style changed dramatically reflecting the trauma he had suffered. He held numerous exhibitions in municipal galleries throughout England and in 1948 he moved with his wife Rosa to Mousehole, Cornwall. (see Read More below for full biog.)
On Reuss’s death, a collection of paintings was acquired by Newlyn Art Gallery as part of a small public collection. A selection of these paintings form the core of this exhibition, which will be an integral part of a wider programme of events and displays at Truro Cathedral.
Holocaust Memorial Day is the day for everyone to remember the millions of people murdered in the Holocaust, under Nazi Persecution, and in the genocides which followed in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia, and Darfur. Holocaust Memorial Day 2020 marks 75 years since the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau and the theme for HMD 2020 reflects on how people have stood together in order to stop division and the spread of hatred in our society.
This exhibition has been selected by Susan Soyinka, author of Albert Reuss in Mousehole, The Artist as Refugee and organised by Newlyn Art Gallery & The Exchange. It forms part of the Insiders Outsiders Festival, a nationwide arts festival celebrating refugees from Nazi Europe and their contribution to British culture.
HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL DAY EVENT
MON 27 JAN
Truro Cathedral Chapter House
- 18:15 A public opening of the event
- 19:30 – 20:30 John Halkes, former Director of Newlyn Art Gallery in conversation with Susan Soyinka, Reuss’s biographer, about Reuss’s life and work.
Admission, £5 including a glass of wine or juice served from 19.00
ALBERT REUSS (1889-1975)
Albert Reuss was a Jewish painter and sculptor, born in Vienna, but who fled to England in 1938 following Hitler’s annexation of Austria. In the process he lost many members of his family, and the reputation he had built up as an artist in Vienna. He continued to work as an exiled-artist in England, but his style changed dramatically, reflecting the trauma he had suffered.
A frail and vulnerable child, his artistic abilities emerged at an early age. Desperate to become an artist, he was obliged instead to assist his father as a butcher, a most unsuitable profession for such a delicate and artistic child. In 1915 he met his future wife, Rosa who offered him the acceptance he so desperately needed. She became his life-long companion, the person who encouraged him in the face of all difficulties.
During the 1920s Reuss gradually established himself as an artist, working initially in portraiture and line drawing. In 1930, a newspaper proprietor sponsored him to spend a year in Cannes, where he worked on portraits and landscapes in oil. During the 1930s, his work became increasingly recognised in Viennese artistic circles. But with the rise of Hitler and the Nazi regime, by 1938 it became clear that Albert and Rosa would have to flee their home country. They packed up all their possessions, including Reuss’s artworks, and left these in storage, but everything was confiscated by the Nazis.
With the help of Cornishman and Quaker John Sturge Stephens, they escaped from Vienna to England where they arrived penniless and empty-handed. Stephens invited them to his cottage in St Mawes, the springboard of their future life in Cornwall. Now in their late forties, they were obliged to build a new life and career from scratch. This proved to be a horrendous struggle. Nevertheless, Reuss held numerous solo exhibitions in galleries throughout England. In 1948 he moved to Mousehole, where he and Rosa established the ARRA Gallery. From 1953 to 1974 Reuss held regular one-man shows at the renowned O’Hana Gallery in London.
Following his exile, there was an immediate change in Reuss's work; whereas his oil paintings in Vienna were colourful and detailed, for example The Carinthian Family, 1932, and Woman Reading with Mother-In-Law's Tongue, a portrait of Rosa painted in 1935, they now became simplified and muted. Figures often looked sad or listless, or were portrayed with their backs turned. From the late 1940s, bleak landscapes started to appear, becoming ever more desolate, with broken fences and walls, and trees stripped of foliage. Where figures were present, these looked equally abandoned, like flotsam on the beach. This is particularly evident in the 1967 painting Figure and Tree Stump originally called Self-Portrait in the Open. Often random objects such as corrugated iron appeared in the landscape, and sometimes even penetrated into rooms, as in Interior II, 1971/72.
Reuss was a complex individual. A tall, slim, handsome man, he could often appear aloof, even arrogant. Yet despite his eccentricities, and at times his unacceptable behaviour, he could also be most charming and had a remarkable capacity to draw people to him, even those he offended. He and Rosa were genuinely loved by many people who were prepared to go to great lengths to help and support them.
Several galleries hold his work, most notably Newlyn Art Gallery & The Exchange, as well as the British Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Belvedere Gallery and the Albertina in Vienna, and the Tel Aviv Museum of Art in Israel.