News Issue No.14 Autumn 2002
Else and Ludwig Meidner: Cultural identity in exile
Ludwig Meidner, Else Meidner c.1930, pencil. Coll. Jüdisches Museum, Frankfurt This symposium was organized at the Courtauld Institute on 4 July 2002 in association with the Ben Uri Gallery, Jewish Museum of Art. It coincided with an exhibition of the artist couples works that was made possible by collaboration with the Jewish Museum in Frankfurt. German-Jewish in origin, Ludwig Meidner (1884-1966) and Else Meyer (1901-1987) married in Berlin in 1927 and arrived as refugees in London in 1939, shortly before the outbreak of war. The symposium provided an opportunity to explore the complex issues arising from their enforced exile and illuminated some of the less palatable conditions of their insecure status in Britain. Shulamith Behrs paper '"His Majestys most Loyal Enemy Alien": Meidner in Exile and the Cycle Suffering of the Jews in Poland 1942-45 focused on the artists internment in Huyton and the Isle of Man and on his artistic response to news of the unfolding genocide in Nazi-occupied Poland. In his paper 'Else and Ludwig Meidner: the Unpublished Correspondence 1945-53, Erik Riedel (Jüdisches Museum der Stadt Frankfurt am Main), revealed fascinating information drawn from the primary documentation regarding Meidners commissions for portraiture and the artist-couples relationship.
Ines Schlenker (Kings College), in her paper 'Else Meidner: Gender, Ethnicity and Condition of Exile, did much to remedy the neglect of this forceful woman artist. Given her plight working as a servant in war-torn London, separated from both her husband and son David, it is all the more remarkable that she participated in a joint exhibition with her husband at the Ben Uri Gallery in 1949. Ludwig Meidners re-migration to Germany in 1953 was paralleled by the recuperation of his career as a major Expressionist. Richard Aronowitz-Mercer (Sothebys London) dealt incisively with post-war reception of the artist in his paper 'Ludwig Meidner: The Prophet and his Art Market, giving us much insight into the cultural affinities of American-Jewish collectors. Marian Malet from the Research Centre for German and Austrian Exile Studies, University of London, graciously chaired the session and we were all humbled by the presence of such an informed and engaged audience, some of whom had personal contact with both artists.