Otto Neumann


Otto Neumann was a 20th century German Expressionist. Born in 
Heidelberg, Germany in 1895, he was the son of the renowned Professor of 
Romance Languages at the University of Heidelberg, Fritz Neumann. 
Neumann grew up surrounded by his father's friends, luminaries like Max 
Weber and Ernest Troeltch. In these rich cultural surroundings and under 
the influence of family and intellectual and thoughtful friends, the 
artist developed a lifelong appreciation of poetry, literature and 

Neumann began his artistic training at the Academieder Bildenden Kunst 
and studied with several noted German artists. In 1929, Neumann married 
Hilde Rothschild, who became a major force in his artistic and personal 
life. It was Hilde, herself a pianist and accomplished weaver, who 
persuaded Otto not to destroy the early work that he considered 
irrelevant to his more recent efforts. Neumann never considered himself 
a member of any particular group, seeing himself, perhaps inaccurately, 
as too young to be an expressionist and too old for Bauhaus, though he 
absorbed what he found most compelling from members of each group.

His career went through a constant series of changes. In his early years 
as a professional painter, Neumann painted numerous oil portraits of the 
university community to support himself. However, as he acquired his own 
means, he abandoned commissioned portrait painting altogether, finding 
it less inspiring than his more imaginative literary and religious 
works. Likewise, Neumann changed media, discarding oils as a medium in 
the early 1920s and began using watercolors; still later, at the end of 
the forties, he discontinued the use of watercolors entirely in favor of 
various graphic media, taking the best from many styles, and even 
changing the way he conceived the human form became a characteristic of 
his artistry.

It was in the 1950s that Neumann's obsession with the neoclassically 
rendered figure was reawakened. His new focus manifested itself in more 
direct, albeit elegantly drawn, handling of classical motifs and forms. 
The artist had clearly been studying ancient Greek vases and the simple, 
lined forms that graced their sides. Neumann's figures are modernized 
versions of his Greek models; they reveal the influence of a modern 
stylistic trend that he admired in the work of such diverse 
contemporaries as Picasso, Matisse, and Henry Moore, all of whom 
incorporated simple line drawing, based on ancient Greek styles, in 
their handling of the human figure. Later in life, especially after the 
death of his wife, Neumann's trademark monotypes and hand-pulled 
woodblocks and linocuts became ever more abstract. Neumann died on 
January 2, 1975 in Munich.

Dr. David M. Sokol, Curator
The Otto Neumann Collection