WOLS (German, 1913–1951) was an important German painter and photographer, whose work was aligned with the art autre movement in postwar Europe. Born Alfred Otto Wolfgang Schulze in Paris, WOLS moved to Dresden with his family in 1919. He was interested in painting from a young age, and was particularly inspired by the work of the German New Objectivity artists, Otto Dix (1891–1969) and George Grosz (1893–1959). WOLS began his artistic career as a photographer’s apprentice in Berlin, where he applied to the Bauhaus school and was advised by László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895–1946) to study in Paris, where he moved in 1932. With the eruption of World War II, WOLS—as a German national—was sent to a French internment camp, where his artistic production was limited to small drawings and sketches. He eventually fled the camp, and waited out the war in Montélimar, while trying unsuccessfully to gain entry into the United States. After the war, WOLS returned to Paris, where he had several shows of his watercolors and his photographs. In 1946, he took up oil painting, earning the attention if the prominent critic and artist Michel Tapié (French, 1909–1987), whose interest in his work led to his posthumous reputation as one of the founding artists of art autre. Wols spent the late 1940s struggling with alcoholism and illness, and died of food poisoning in 1951. After his early death, WOLS’ work became influential for younger artists, and was shown at several Kassel documenta exhibitions in the 1950s and 1960s.

Timeline

1913
Born May 27 as Alfred Otto Wolfgang Schulze, Berlin, Germany
1919
Moves to Dresden with his family
1930
Leaves school and is taught privately
1932
Frobenius Institute for Ethnology, Frankfurt/Main, Germany
1951
Dies September 1, Paris, France

Exhibitions

1950
Iolas New York
1947
Réalitiés Nouvelles, Galerie du Luxembourg
1947
40 Oil Paintings, René Drouin
1942
Betty Parson New York
1937
(photographs), Paris, France