Born in Berneck, Bavaria in 1901, Carl Heidenreich left in 1917 to study painting in Munich. By 1921 he joined the School of Modern Art, founded by Hans Hofmann in 1915 and considered at the time to be one of the most progressive art schools in Europe. Heidenreich was politically active at an early age, involved in communist and anti-fascist political movements and taking part in the Munich uprising of 1918.
After moving to Berlin in 1922, Heidenreich was at the core of Germany’s avant-garde. His breakthrough came in 1933 with the offer of a solo exhibition to display his brooding cityscapes at Galerie Nierendorf, plans that came to a disastrous and abrupt halt with the election of Adolf Hitler. While Heidenreich’s paintings did not label him a “degenerate,” his political activism did—- he was denounced as a communist, his show forbidden, his studio ransacked, 200 pictures destroyed, and he was jailed at Moabit by the Nazis.
After his imprisonment, he fled to Spain and France, fought with the anti-Stalinist Loyalist forces during the Civil War, was twice imprisoned and tortured in Spain, and twice interned in France. At the last moment, in May of 1941, he managed to escape from Europe through Marseilles. Once in New York, Heidenreich joined a large community of German exiles, found jobs in factories, and eventually was able to resume his work as an artist.
Heidenreich’s watercolors and oil paintings record his journey of exile and reveal influences of German Expressionism and Abstract Expressionism in the post-war decades.