Werner Drewes

Painter, Printmaker, Educator


Werner Drewes (German and American, 1899–1985) was a painter, printmaker and educator and is considered to be one of the founding fathers of American Abstraction.

Selected Works

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Collage #607 by Werner Drewes

"Collage #607" by Werner Drewes

Study for oil painting.

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Taking Off by Werner Drewes

"Taking Off" by Werner Drewes

Grey, green, and blue shapes highlight floating objects that are composed of crisscrossed perpendicular lines. The grey and green shape indicates the earth and contains a large black structure. Three crosses stand upright with one of the three crosses acting as a support. The single cross is situated on top of the blue shape that indicates the sky. A red background encompasses both representational images and fills the remaining space of the print.

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Domination by Werner Drewes

"Domination" by Werner Drewes

Drewes depicts a large black industrial machine with levers and other mechanical components emphasized by the use of strong shapes and color.

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Bird of Prey by Werner Drewes

"Bird of Prey" by Werner Drewes

Drewes renders a single bird with the conventional cubist and abstract technique of reduced forms. These forms are highlighted by a single light source in the upper left side that cast rays over the bird. Three distinct columns of red over the black and white image divides the composition and scene.

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Witches Dance by Werner Drewes

"Witches Dance" by Werner Drewes

A white orb is the central subject of the work with striking black forms in the shape of crescents, swift strokes, and squares that revolve around the orb. The black forms are highlighted by colorful shapes in the middle ground and colorful background.

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Hilarity by Werner Drewes

"Hilarity" by Werner Drewes

Like "Oriental Ballet," Drewes creates the same "U" form constructed of crescent and ink stroke shapes. Unlike "Oriental Ballet," Drewes' chooses a light blue, orange, yellow, and white colors as the background of the print.

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Oriental Ballet by Werner Drewes

"Oriental Ballet" by Werner Drewes

A "U" shaped image is created with crescent and ink stroke shapes. Star and moon forms are also created by Drewes' gestural and expressive marks. Green, red, and orange columns flank the expressive character, with the orange center column being the largest portion of the print.

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Reflection by Werner Drewes

"Reflection" by Werner Drewes

Drewes stacks warm and cool colored shapes above and below an abstracted horizon line running across the center of the page. Red, yellow, and orange colors grip closest to the horizon. Purples, blues, and greens extend beyond the warmer colors to the edge of the print. In the most basic representation, Drewes experiments with the notion of reflections with color, line, and shape.

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Mykonos II by Werner Drewes

"Mykonos II" by Werner Drewes

A deconstructed scene of the Greek city of Mykonos. Drewes uses color and basic architectural forms and shapes that distinguish the city through a cubist lens.

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Self Portrait by Werner Drewes

"Self Portrait" by Werner Drewes

One of many self-portraits, Drewes depicts an honest representation of himself. He uses frantic line work to convey his self-portrait.

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Rain by Werner Drewes

"Rain" by Werner Drewes

Through the process of woodcutting, Drewes cut away lines to depict rain in this scene with two walking figures.

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The Lovers by Werner Drewes

"The Lovers" by Werner Drewes

A reduced and representational landscape reveals rolling hills, trees, plants, and birds. Two figures in the bottom right-hand corner are shown in an embrace.

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Man and Woman I by Werner Drewes

"Man and Woman I" by Werner Drewes

A woman wraps her arms around the shoulders of a man in a close embrace. The image lacks refined detail and appears like a sketch, but captures the intimate moment between two figures.

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Apparition by Werner Drewes

"Apparition" by Werner Drewes

An unidentifiable form floats over and in between the 90-degree grid encompassing the image. The title of Drewes' work insinuates a ghost-like mass.

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White Ducklings II by Werner Drewes

"White Ducklings II" by Werner Drewes

Drewes transforms a conventional depiction of ducklings by simplifying the natural forms to interconnecting and overlapping shapes and lines.

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Cornered II by Werner Drewes

"Cornered II" by Werner Drewes

Drewes experiments with shapes, lines, and repetition. He uses the three primary colors (blue, red, and yellow) as an active component of the work.

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Reflections on a Skyscraper by Werner Drewes

"Reflections on a Skyscraper" by Werner Drewes

Drewes blends architectural perspective and the deconstruction of a skyscraper to representational shapes. The reoccurring artist's technique of using varying degrees of contrasting and highlighted values demonstrates Drewes' abstract notions of "reflections" on a tall city building or skyscraper.

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Crescendo by Werner Drewes

"Crescendo" by Werner Drewes

Drewes creates a visual representation of a gradual increase in sound and intensity. Cubist shapes and contrasting value achieved by cross-hatching lines and varying degrees of light and dark build up the vigor and force of the image.

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Autumn Leaves by Werner Drewes

"Autumn Leaves" by Werner Drewes

Drewes uses black and white value contrast to highlight the various autumn leaves shown in the foreground of a land and water setting.

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Dance of Mermaids II by Werner Drewes

"Dance of Mermaids II" by Werner Drewes

Bold overlapping shapes and abstract forms create a sense of frenzy and movement. The forms and images dance around the composition. Depictions of a shell, a moon, and a representational fish or mermaid are identifiable.

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Monumental by Werner Drewes

"Monumental" by Werner Drewes

Drewes constructs an abstract totem composed of various shapes and elongated lines.

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Sunset-Variations by Werner Drewes

"Sunset-Variations" by Werner Drewes

Deconstructed, cubist forms suggest reclining female figures in the foreground. The figures meld into the landscape set by a body of water. A sailboat and a descending sun are depicted in the upper-right corner.

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Madrid-Bullfight III by Werner Drewes

"Madrid-Bullfight III" by Werner Drewes

A Spanish matador, or bullfighter, entices a charging bull with the swift movement of a cape known as a "capote de brega." Drewes depicts the fighter in a poised stance, an infamous representation of a matador in the ring.

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Madrid-Bullfight I by Werner Drewes

"Madrid-Bullfight I" by Werner Drewes

A Spanish matador, or bullfighter, is shown in the ring with a bull. A moment in time, Drewes depicts a bullfight in process.

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Washington Print Club Members' Exhibition Poster signed by Werner Drewes

"Washington Print Club Members' Exhibition Poster". National Collection of Fine Arts, Autumn of 1976. 

Condition: Very good.

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Shimmering Waters by Werner Drewes

"Shimmering Waters" by Werner Drewes

Condiiton: Excellent.

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New York by Werner Drewes

"New York" by Werner Drewes

Condition: Excellent.

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Dream by Werner Drewes

"Dream" by Werner Drewes

Condition: Good. Framed under glass.

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Vertical Predominance by Werner Drewes

"Vertical Predominance" by Werner Drewes.

Condition: Excellent.

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Marseille by Werner Drewes

"Marseille" by Werner Drewes


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Equilibrium by Werner Drewes

"Equilibrium" by Werner Drewes

Condition: Excellent impression and colors. Good condition. Few minor creases throughout.

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Stability by Werner Drewes

"Stability" by Werner Drewes

Condition: Excellent impression and colors. Good condition. Few minor creases throughout.


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Mayan Pyramid by Werner Drewes

"Mayan Pyramid" by Werner Drewes

Condition: Excellent impression and colors. Good condition. Few minor creases throughout.


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Forest by Werner Drewes

"Forest" by Werner Drewes

Condition: Excellent.


print biography

Werner Drewes was born in Canig, Germany on July 27, 1899. While studying architecture and design at a school in Berlin-Charlottenburg in 1919, he visited Herwath Walden’s Gallery in Berlin and it was there that he had a pivotal exposure to paintings by Franz Marc, Wassily Kandinsky, and Paul Klee. He enrolled at the Stuttgart School of Architecture in 1920 and at the School of Arts and Crafts in 1921, where he took courses in architecture, figure drawing, and stained glass. In 1921 Drewes enrolled at the Staatliches Bauhaus in Weimar, where he studied with Johannes Itten, Paul Klee, and Oskar Schlemmer.

From 1923 to 1924 Drewes travelled in Italy and Spain to study the masters—Veronese, Tintoretto, Velazquez, and El Greco—and from there he went to Latin America. He earned a living by selling etchings, with many of them being inspired by depictions of the sights during his travels. Drewes returned to Germany in 1927 and enrolled at the Staatliche Bauhaus in Dessau for two years. He continued his studies with Klee and Schlemmer, and attended painting classes with Wassily Kandinsky. He worked as an independent artist and exhibited at galleries in Frankfurt.

In 1930, Drewes emigrated from Germany to New York City, at the time an increasingly important center of Modern art and meeting point for rising and established artists. Drewes was one of the founding members of the American Abstract Artists Group, formed in 1936. His series of wholly abstract woodcut prints titled It Can’t Happen Here (1934) “are among the earliest, if not the first purely abstract prints” created in the United States, according to art historian and curator Una Johnson. Drewes exhibited with The Societé Anonyme (founded by Katherine Dreier, Man Ray and Marcel Duchamp) and produced woodcuts, blockprints, intaglio prints, and paintings. He also taught at the Brooklyn Museum and at Columbia University.

In 1946, Drewes joined the faculty of the School of Fine Arts at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. In addition to being an instructor of design, he continued to exhibit art regionally and internationally and he travelled frequently to Europe. After almost two decades of teaching, Drewes retired from his position at the university in 1965 and he moved to Point Pleasant, Pennsylvania and continued to exhibit work. In 1972, Drewes settled in Reston, Virginia, where he would live for the remainder of his life. On the occasion of the artist’s 85th birthday, the Smithsonian American Art Museum organized a major retrospective in 1984 titled Werner Drewes, Sixty-Five Years of Printmaking. The exhibition recognized Drewe’s contributions to the foundation of an American abstract art movements and connected more than six decades of his varied but continuous printmaking practice.



  • 1923 Solo exhibition, etchings, Madrid, Spain
  • 1924 Solo exhibition, etchings, Salon Maverof, Montevideo, Uruguay
  • 1925 Solo exhibition, Buenos Aires, Argentina
  • 1925 Solo exhibition, Central Public Library, St. Louis, Missouri
  • 1926 Solo exhibition, etchings, Gump’s, San Francisco, California
  • 1928 Solo exhibition, Galerie Flechtheim & Kahnweiler, Frankfurt, Germany
  • 1929 Solo exhibition, oils, Galerie del Vecchio, Leipzig, Germany
  • 1930 Two-person exhibition (with Carl Sprinchorn), S.P.R. Penthouse
  • 1930 Solo exhibition, 135th Street branch of the Public Library
  • 1931 Group exhibition, Société Anonyme, Albright Art Center, Buffalo, New York
  • 1931 Two-person exhibition (with Herbert Reynolds Kniffin), Morton Gallery
  • 1931 Group exhibition, "Fifty Prints of the Year," American Institute of Graphic Arts, Art Center
  • 1931 Group exhibition, Brownell-Lamberton Galleries
  • 1931 Group exhibition, prints, Pynson Printers Gallery
  • 1931 Group exhibition, Société Anonyme, Rand School
  • 1931 Solo exhibition, oil paintings, Morton Gallery
  • 1931 Solo exhibition, Pent-House Gallery
  • 1932 Group exhibition, exhibition and auction, Indoor Art Market
  • 1932 Group exhibition, German-American Conference, Hotel Astor
  • 1932 Group exhibition, Milch Galleries
  • 1932 Group exhibition, Times Gallery
  • 1932 Group exhibition, Watercolors, Morton Gallery
  • 1932 Solo exhibition, New School for Social Research
  • 1933 Group exhibition, Macy Galleries
  • 1933 Group exhibition, annual watercolor show, Morton Gallery
  • 1933 Solo exhibition, Morton Gallery
  • 1934 Solo exhibition, Wells College, Aurora, New York
  • 1935 Group exhibition, Brooklyn Museum Gallery for Living Artists
  • 1935 Group exhibition, Ten-Dollar Gallery
  • 1935 Group exhibition, Uptown Gallery
  • 1935 Group exhibition, prints, New School for Social Research
  • 1936 Group exhibition, Société Anonyme, Black Mountain College, North Carolina
  • 1936 Group exhibition, Temporary Galleries of the Municipal Art Committee
  • 1936 Solo exhibition, Ten-Year Retrospective, Uptown Gallery
  • 1936 Solo exhibition, Bennington College, Bennington, Vermont
  • 1936 Solo exhibition, Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Connecticut
  • 1937 Group exhibition, first annual membership exhibition, American Artists Congress, International Building, Rockefeller Center
  • 1937 Group exhibition, American Abstract Artists, Squibb Building
  • 1937 group exhibition, East River Gallery
  • 1937 Group exhibition, Temporary Galleries of the Municipal Art Committee
  • 1937 Solo exhibition, University Hall, Columbia University
  • 1938 Group exhibition, American Abstract Artists, National Academy of Design
  • 1938 Group exhibition, Municipal Art Galleries
  • 1938 Group exhibition, Second Annual Exhibition, American Artists Congress, Wanamaker's Store
  • 1939 Group exhibition, Pedac Galleries
  • 1939 Solo exhibition, oils, Artists Gallery
  • 1940 Group exhibition, American Abstract Artists American Fine Arts Buildings (June 5–16)
  • 1940 Group exhibition, American Abstract Artists St. Etienne Gallery (May 22-June 12
  • 1940 Group exhibition, An American Group Inc., 1939-40 New York World's Fair, American Art Today Pavilion
  • 1941 Group exhibition, American Abstract Artists Riverside Museum
  • 1941 Group exhibition, Brooklyn Museum
  • 1941 Group exhibition, Karl Lilienfeld Gallery
  • 1941 Group exhibition, Masters and Vanguard of Modern Art, Nierendorf Gallery
  • 1941 Group exhibition, Morton Gallery
  • 1941 Group exhibition, Museum of Non-objective Painting
  • 1941 Solo exhibition, oils, Artists Gallery
  • 1942 Group exhibition, American Abstract Artists Fine Arts Building
  • 1942 Group exhibition, Lilienfeld Galleries
  • 1943 Group exhibition, Macy & Co. Galleries
  • 1943 Group exhibition, Water-color Exhibition, Brooklyn Museum
  • 1943 Solo exhibition, Community Arts Building, Utica, New York
  • 1944 Group exhibition, American Abstract Artists Mortimer Brandt Gallery
  • 1944 Group exhibition, Color Prints, Arts Club, Washington, D.C.
  • 1944 Group exhibition, Lilienfeld Galleries
  • 1944 Group exhibition, Morton Gallery
  • 1944 Group exhibition, Museum of Non-Objective Art
  • 1945 Two-person exhibition (with Franz Lerch), Lilienfeld Gallery
  • 1945 Group exhibition, American Abstract Artists Riverside Museum
  • 1945 Solo exhibition, Kleemann Gallery
  • 1945 Solo exhibition, prints, Indiana University, Bloomington
  • 1946 Group exhibition, American Abstract Artists American-British Art Center
  • 1946 Group exhibition, Advancing American Art exhibition, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, Metropolitan Museum
  • 1946 Group exhibition, Exhibition and Auction; Food Parcels for Europe, Nierendorf Gallery
  • 1946 Group exhibition, Pan American Union, Washington, D.C.
  • 1946 Group exhibition, Pinacotheca
  • 1946 Group exhibition, Troeger-Phillips, Inc.
  • 1946 Solo exhibition, Kleemann Gallery
  • 1947 Group exhibition, American Abstract Artists Riverside Museum
  • 1947 Group exhibition, Contemporary American Painting Annual, Whitney Museum
  • 1947 Group exhibition, Grand Central Galleries
  • 1947 Group exhibition, Graphic Circle group, American University, Washington, D.C.
  • 1947 Group exhibition, Graphic Circle group, Seligmann Gallery
  • 1947 Group exhibition, Landscapes of Four Centuries, Koetser Gallery
  • 1947 Group exhibition, Painting in the United States, 1947, Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • 1947 Group exhibition, Thirty-second Annual Exhibition of American Etchers, Gravers, Lithographers and Woodcutters, Inc., National Academy
  • 1947 Solo exhibition, watercolors, Kleemann Gallery
  • 1948 Solo exhibition, Graphic Arts Section, Smithsonian Institution
  • 1949 Group exhibition, Kleemann Gallery
  • 1949 Solo exhibition, Pen and Palette Gallery, St. Louis, Missouri
  • 1951 Group exhibition, American Abstract Artists Whitney Museum
  • 1951 Group exhibition, Artists Gallery
  • 1951 Group exhibition, oils, Argent Gallery
  • 1951 Solo exhibition, Gallery Lutz and Meyer, Stuttgart, Germany
  • 1953 Group exhibition, Woodstock Artists' Association, Woodstock, New York
  • 1953 Solo exhibition, Artists Guild, St. Louis, Missouri
  • 1954 Solo exhibition, prints, Beloit College, Beloit, Wisconsin
  • 1956 Group exhibition, prints, Commeter Galerie, Hamburg, Germany
  • 1956 Group exhibition, Martin Schweig Gallery, St. Louis, Missouri
  • 1956 Group exhibition, prints, Locke Gallery, San Francisco, California
  • 1956 Solo exhibition, Commeter Gallery, Hamburg, Germany
  • 1957 Solo exhibition, woodcuts, Cassell and Paul Gallery, St. Louis, Missouri
  • 1957 Solo exhibition, prints, Brooks Memorial Art Gallery, Memphis, Tennessee
  • 1958 Solo exhibition, woodcuts, IFA Galleries, Washington, D.C.
  • 1958 Solo exhibition, woodcuts, Stephens College, Columbia, Missouri
  • 1958 Solo exhibition, Art Mart Gallery, Clayton, Missouri
  • 1958 Solo exhibition, woodcuts, Springfield Art Museum, Springfield, Missouri
  • 1958 Group exhibition, Commonwealth School, Boston, Massachusetts
  • 1959 Group exhibition, Kleemann Gallery
  • 1959 Solo exhibition, Gaga Galerie, Boston, Massachusetts
  • 1960 Solo exhibition, Art Mart Gallery, Clayton, Missouri
  • 1961 Solo exhibition, watercolors, Art Alliance, Carnegie Library, Paducah, Kentucky
  • 1961 Solo exhibition, Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, Ohio
  • 1962 Solo exhibition, Achenbach Foundation for the Graphic Arts, Museum of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco, California
  • 1963 Solo exhibition, Webster College, Webster Groves, Missouri
  • 1964 Solo exhibition, Martin Schweig Gallery, St. Louis, Missouri
  • 1965 Group exhibition, Esther Stuttman Gallery, Washington, D.C.
  • 1966 Solo exhibition, Everhart Museum, Scranton, Pennsylvania
  • 1968 Solo exhibition, Trenton State College, Trenton, New Jersey
  • 1969 Solo exhibition, Four Decades of Woodcuts, National Collection of Fine Arts, Washington, D.C.
  • 1971 Solo exhibition, Hom Gallery, Bethesda, Maryland
  • 1972 Group exhibition, Squibb Galleries, Lawrence, New Jersey
  • 1976 Solo exhibition, Princeton Gallery, Princeton, New Jersey
  • 1978 Two-person exhibition, Sid Deutsch Gallery
  • 1979 Group exhibition, Sid Deutsch Gallery
  • 1979 Solo exhibition, Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri
  • 1984 Group exhibition, American Abstract Paintings From the 1930s and 1940s, Washburn Gallery
  • 1985 Group exhibition, Associated American Artists
  • 1985 Solo exhibition, National Museum of American Art
  • 1986 Solo exhibition, Princeton Gallery, Princeton, New Jersey
  • 1986 Solo exhibition, Selective Retrospective, Tobey C. Moss Gallery, Los Angeles, California
  • 1988 Group exhibition, Foundations of American Avant-Garde, Struve Gallery, Chicago, Illinois
  • 1989 Group exhibition, American Abstraction 1930-1945, National Museum of American Art, Washington, D.C.
  • 1990 Solo exhibition, Tobey C. Moss Gallery, Los Angeles, California