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Ernst Dreyfuss

Artist 4 of 12

Dreyfuss, Ernst, 1903–1977: “Still Life with Mandolin.”, between 1941 and 1971, Leo Baeck Institute Art and Objects Collection, 2004.12.

Ernst Dreyfuss (1903-1977)


It is unclear when or where Dreyfuss painted this still life, but the style seems to reference early paintings of Max Beckmann, Dreyfuss’s former teacher in Germany. Beckmann was a well-known painter who became associated with the German movement of New Objectivity (Neue Sachlichkeit) and counted among those artists whose works were displayed at the Nazi “Entartete Kunst” (Degenerate Art) exhibition in Munich. In Dreyfuss’s still life scene, objects lay scattered on a table, executed in large bold brushstrokes. The subdued color palette is tranquil, though heavy shadows darken the scene.

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Philo-Atlas: Handbuch für die jüdische Auswanderung (Philo-Atlas: Manual for Jewish Emigration), Berlin: Philo GmbH, 1938.


Ernest Emanuel Dreyfuss was born in Frankfurt am Main in 1903. He trained as a painter and was a disciple of Max Beckmann and Ugi Battenberg. Dreyfuss survived Buchenwald concentration camp and fled from Nazi Germany in 1940, spending a year in England before immigrating to the US in 1941. He settled in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago, where, as an eccentric neighborhood painter, he allegedly served as the inspiration for a character in one of the Nobel Laureate Saul Bellow’s “Chicago Stories”. Dreyfuss ceased painting for unknown reasons in the final years of his life.