An exhibition of remarkable classical figure drawings and mural studies by Hans Feibusch (1898–1998) will open in Pallant House Gallery’s De’Longhi Print Room this January. The German émigré artist, who was dubbed a 'Degenerate artist' by the Nazis, settled in England in 1933 and became Britain's most prolific specialist in mural painting in churches. Drawn from the substantial archive gifted to Pallant House Gallery from Feibusch’s London studio, the display features drawings that have not previously been exhibited. The display compliments the Gallery’s major exhibition, The Mythic Method: Classicism in British Art 1920-1950.
In 1997 the Gallery received the entire contents of Hans Feibusch’s North London studio. The studio (formerly The Studio of Sir Edwin Landseer) was established by Feibusch in 1938, the same year he was granted British citizenship. The Hans Feibusch collection at Pallant House Gallery includes around 80 paintings, 50 sculptures, several hundred drawings and studies, copies of all Feibusch’s lithographs (around 50 prints including proof stages), as well as the artist’s sketch books, easels, brushes, props, furniture and books – over 1,700 items in total. The Gallery also houses the Hans Feibusch Archive of photographs and ephemera.
Originally from Frankfurt am Main, Feibusch was born to Jewish parents and served in the German Army on the Russian front during the First World War. After the war he studied art in Munich working under the expressionist painter Karl Hofer and cubist Andre Lhote in Paris. During the 1920s he travelled across Italy, where he admired the work of Renaissance masters such as Masaccio, Piero della Francesca and Benozzo Gozzoli and whose influence can be seen in his later work.
In 1933, he emigrated to England to escape Nazi persecution and was invited to join the London Group, one of the oldest artist-led groups in the world. He
created several murals on mythical subjects, including Diana and Actaeon in 1934, commissioned by the curator and art historian James Laver for 11 Wellington Square, London, and Apollo, Dionysus and a Leopard and Helios in 1936, for the modernist Sun House in Frognal Way, London, which was designed by the architect Maxwell Fry, a fellow member of the London Group.
As a Jewish artist Feibusch’s work was included in the Nazi’s notorious Degenerate Art exhibition in Munich in 1937 which was intended to turn public opinion against modernism; his work Two Floating Figures was a prominent piece. He described it as “an angel floating through the air above two figures. I’m sure it was destroyed. A lot of my work met the same fate, although some of it was found later. But I had to leave all that behind me, I was thankful to have got out and I just got on with my new life”.
It was in England that Feibusch began a new chapter in his career as a specialist in mural painting in churches. His first commission The Footwashing at the Methodist Church, Colliers Wood. This reached the attention of George Bell, then Bishop of Chichester. Bell was a great patron of the arts and was passionate about bringing the church and contemporary artists together. He became an important figure in Feibusch’s professional life and was responsible for giving Feibusch many of his most important mural commissions such as Chichester Cathedral and St. Elizabeth’s, Eastbourne.
The works included in this new display have never before been exhibited and include preparatory studies for murals featuring Christian and classical mythology imagery. Classical ideas of measurement and order can be seen in his depiction of figures and in particular the drapery of their robes.
Hans Feibusch: The Unseen Drawings will be on display in the De’Longhi Print Room at Pallant House Gallery from 18 January - 5 March 2017. Entry to the De’Longhi Print Room is free.