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Elfriede Lohse-Wächtler

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Elfriede Lohse-Wächtler

*  1899 Dresden
† 1940 Arnsdorf bei Dresden


Elfriede Lohse-Wächtler was born in Dresden in 1899. She began her career as an artist by attending the specialist class in fashion and commercial art at the Dresden School for the Applied Arts from 1915. In 1921 she audited courses in drawing and painting taught by O. Gussmann at the Dresden Fine Arts Polytechnic. Elfriede Lohse-Wächtler came into contact with the Dresden "Secession Group 1919" and the Berlin Dadaists. Through Otto Dix and Conrad Felixmüller she was introduced to the artist and singer Kurt Lohse, whom she married in 1921. Kurt Lohse was appointed to a position as a choral singer in Hamburg in 1925 and moved there with his wife. By 1926 the couple had separated. Elfriede Lohse-Wächtler remained in Hamburg, where the most creative phase of her work began: the years between 1927 and 1931 were her most productive.
Working in oils, pastels and watercolors, Elfriede Lohse-Wächtler produced numerous portraits of known and unknown persons, pictures of couples and pictures of prostitutes and members of the working class. In 1929 Elfriede Lohse-Wächtler suffered a nervous breakdown and was hospitalized at the Hamburg-Friedrichsberg psychiatric clinic. There Elfriede Lohse-Wächtler produced her "Friedrichsberg Heads", some sixty drawings and pastels that are head and body studies of the mentally ill. In 1931 Elfriede Lohse-Wächtler was discharged, returning to her parents in Dresden at the age of thirty-two. She remained mentally unstable and after she had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, her father had her hospitalized at the Arnsdorf psychiatric institute. Although Elfriede Lohse-Wächtler still managed to work on her art there, after she had been declared mentally incompetent, her divorce from Kurt Lohse had been granted and she had been sterilized in 1935, she was unable to continue. In addition, her work was denigrated as "degenerate" in 1937 and some of it was destroyed. Elfriede Lohse-Wächtler was gassed on either 31 July or 1 August 1940 under the auspices of the National Socialist "T4" euthanasia program at Pirna-Sonnenschein.
As a painter of the "lost generation" who had affinities with expressive realism, Elfriede Lohse-Wächtler was rediscovered after the war and rehabilitated by the art world from 1959.