Pre-War Figurative Art
(1922 - 1950)
65 x 49 cm
Oil on cardboard.
Signed bottom right: Scheiber H.
Hugó Scheiber was born into a family of ten children, his father was a set painter in Vienna, and this is how he began his career as a painter too. He trained as a locksmith and received little formal artistic training. Between 1898 and 1900 he attended the College of Applied Arts, but did not complete his studies. He fought at the front in the First World War.
His art was first influenced by Impressionism and plein air, and his favourite genres during this period were landscapes and life scenes. He applied paint to canvas in a pastose manner. The change from this perception was triggered, according to Béla Kádár, by the international exhibition at the Kunsthaus, during which he met the Isms. From the second half of the 1910s onwards, his style was influenced by German Expressionism and Futurism, and he developed a new stylized world of colour and form. However, in 1915 he met Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, and became close friends with him. At his invitation, he joined the Futurist movement. In 1919, he held an exhibition with his friend Béla Kádár at the Hevesy Salon in Vienna, from where some of his paintings were transferred to the Museum of Fine Arts. In 1921, he again exhibited with Kádár at Herwarth Walden's Sturm Gallery in Berlin, where he became a popular artist. In 1922 he moved to Berlin, and his pictures soon appeared regularly in Walden's magazine and other journals. He was included in many avant-garde exhibitions abroad, but did not receive enough recognition at home. 'The Sturm in Berlin has six Hungarian members - including Béla Kádár and Moholy-Nagy - and these Hungarian painters are truly cherished by the German art public... I had two collective exhibitions in Berlin last season. They went well....I would like to go to London next time. To introduce myself... Back home?... Who wants to know... I am considered a great artist everywhere outside the borders of my country, only to be silenced in my own home country,' complained Scheiber in an interview in 1925. He was almost 50 years old at the time, but he remained interested in the most modern trends.
Scheiber worked extremely quickly, he was excellent at portraying people's characters. It was no coincidence that Herwarth Walden asked him to paint portraits of the participants at the famous Sturm balls. Scheiber repeatedly put himself in the limelight, produced countless self-portraits, and portraiture became one of his most important genres. The portrait of a man above was painted before Berlin, in the early 1920s, and is a transition to Expressionism. Scheiber no longer applies the paint with the same iron, the colours are lighter than in his paintings of the decade, but the face is even less stylised than in his portraits of the later period.
In the 1930s he turned to Art Deco and increasingly depicted big-city life in his works, which include jazz, nightclubs, cabarets, musicians and designers. But he also painted Jewish subjects and created rabbi portraits. Hugó Scheiber lived through the Holocaust in the ghetto, where his health deteriorated. The final blow, however, came when the Society of Fine Artists refused to admit him as a member in 1949. He died in 1950, lonely and forgotten. His grave is in the Jewish cemetery on Kozma Street.