Collection Habbel, Gut Weisham;
sale Ketterer Kunst GmbH, Munich, May 14, 2004, no. 69;
Private Collection, South Germany
Hans Orlowski, Galerie Wolfgang Gurlitt, Berlin, 1934.
Fritz Schwarzenberger, Werkverzeichnis Hans Orlowski , Berlin, 1972, no. 33.
The painter and print-maker Hans Otto Orlowski (fig. 1) was born in Insterburg near Köningsburg
in East Prussia. His father was a tailor and moved the family to Köningsberg, Potsdam, and then
Charlottenburg. Orlowski first studied at the Academy of Decorative Arts in Berlin from 1911 to
1915. But the First World War interrupted his studies and he served briefly as a soldier in Serbia
until he was wounded. He was then employed as a draftsman in the War Ministry, but also began
producing his first independent prints. In 1918 he returned to art school and became a member of
the Berlin Secession, a progressive group whose members included, among others, Lovis Corinth,
Käthe Kollwitz, and Emil Nolde. Orlowski graduated in 1919, and in 1921 he began teaching at
the Decorative Arts Academy in Charlottenberg, where he remained until 1945. In 1924 he visited
Paris, and his style evolved away from Expressionism to a more realistic, even classical, manner
applied primarily to nudes. The artist’s first one man exhibition, which included the present
painting, was held in Berlin in 1934 at the Wolfgang Gurlitt Gallery, which was renowned
for being one of the first in Germany to show Matisse, Kokoschka, Slevogt, Corinth, and
Kubin. During the Second World War Orlowski was involved with saving the collection of the
Berlin National Gallery. His own workshop and apartment were destroyed and many of his
paintings and prints lost. Beginning in 1945 he taught at the Berlin University of the Arts and
during his last years received a number of exhibitions throughout West Germany.
In the early 1920s Orlowski’s nude studies (figs. 2a-b) displayed the angular, intense Expressionist
style that was then current in Germany. But by the late 1920s and into the early 1930s his
paintings of nudes become more sensual and more traditional (figs. 3a-c) with great attention
devoted to the texture of the flesh. By closely cropping his compositions and excluding any
background detail, as in this example, Orlowski was able to achieve an intense directness and even
disturbing connection between the model and the viewer. This artistic approach lasted only a short
while, as he then evolved a grander, broader neo-classical style for nudes painted in the late 1930s
and into the 1940s (figs. 4a-b). Due to the painter’s own editing of his works and the destruction
of the War, early paintings like this by Orlowski are rare.