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Walter Dexel

Walter Dexel

*  1890 München
† 1973 Braunschweig

Walter Dexel was one of the outstanding personalities of Constructivism in the 1920s. As a painter Dexel was an autodidact. He studied art history in Munich under Heinrich Wölfflin and Fritz Burger from 1910 to 1914. During this period he also attended H. Gröber's drawing classes. Dexel graduated from university with a PhD under Botho Gräf in 1916. He painted his first works in 1912/13 during a trip to Italy. His early works are influenced by Cézanne's landscapes and later by Cubism and Expressionism. Dexel had his first one-man exhibition - with works painted in a Cubist manner - as early as 1914 at the Gallery Dietzel in Munich. After the First World War, in 1918, Dexel became the head of the exhibition department in Jena where he organised exhibitions with Campendonk and later with Bauhaus artists like Moholy-Nagy. At the beginning of the 1920s Dexel's style changed to Constructivism, to him an all-encompassing style. Dexel not only painted but also worked as a typographer and an advertising designer and designed interiors as well as stage settings. As a young man he began showing an interest in the problems and issues of modern living - a topic that he elaborated in 1928 with his wife Grete Dexel in the book "Das Wohnhaus heute". In 1921 Dexel developed a close, long-lasting friendship with the Dutch De-Stijl artist Theo van Doesburg. During this period he had several exhibitions in Herwarth Walden's Berlin gallery "Der Sturm". From 1928 to 1935 Dexel lectured graphic design at the Kunstgewerbeschule in Magdeburg. The National Socialists dismissed him from his post in 1935 and he gave up painting in the same year. After the war Dexel became interested in the history of the form of household appliances. During 1942 to 1955 he assembled the "Historische Formensammlung" (historical collection of forms) in Brunswick and published numerous books about form. A retrospective exhibition of the Berlin "Sturm" re-awakened Dexel's interest in art and he began working again as an artist in 1961, using 1920s forms for his designs. In 1973 Dexel died aged 83 in Brunswick.