The following article is from the June 2008 issue of The Atlantic Times.
Chased Into A Paradise of Color Hans Moller was a German-born artist who thrived in the United States but was virtually unknown in Germany – By Nadia Hassani
The prolific painter created hundreds of works during his time across the Atlantic. He has yet to be discovered in his homeland. Of the many artists who fled Germany after 1933, Hans Moller was one of the most fortunate. Not only was he able to immigrate to the United States but also to quickly establish himself. And what a prolific exile it was. In the 64 years between his arrival in the United States and his death in 2000, Moller created hundreds of oil paintings, watercolors, collages and drawings. Since the 1940s, Moller’s works have been part of the permanent collections at major museums, including the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art. All this time, however, Moller has remained a blank spot on Germany’s artistic landscape.
Moller was born in Wuppertal in 1905. From 1919 to 1927, he attended Kunstgewerbeschule Wuppertal-Barmen, the local arts and crafts school, at night while working as a bricklayer by day. He then studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Berlin and became a graphic artist. It was in Berlin that Moller met Helen Rosenblum, who was Jewish and training to be a dietitian. They married in 1933 and fled Germany three years later. Upon arriving in New York City in 1936, Moller had but a few dollars in his pocket. Yet, within a week, he secured a job as a graphic designer at the leading advertising firm, Lord & Thomas. Art was his after-work hobby until his first solo exhibition at the prestigious Bonestell Gallery in 1942. More than 25 solo exhibitions followed, one almost every year in Manhattan galleries in the 1940s and 1950s.
Abstractionism, surrealism, cubism, pointilism, fauvism – traces of all of these movements have been detected in Moller’s oeuvre. While Moller and his wife mingled with New York’s avant-garde art scene in the 1940s and 1950s, Moller remained Moller, never associating with a particular group. All the while, collectors eagerly absorbed his art. Moller said that the abstract expressionist Mark Rothko had told him that he would be ready to sell an entire year’s production for $5,000. At the time, Moller’s works sold for $500 to $1,200 each.
In 1959, the Mollers bought a summer cottage on tiny Monhegan Island off the coast of Maine with spectacular views of the surging sea. Here Moller did studies and painted watercolors that he would execute in oil when back in New York City. Tam’s Garden, a rendering of a house owned by a fellow artist, is one of the many examples where Moller painted the same subject in different variations. Sea and Island, a 1959 painting that is owned by the Von-der-Heydt Museum in Moller’s native Wuppertal, is the lone work held by a German museum.
The New York Times art critic John Canaday called Moller’s 1973 solo exhibition at Midtown Galleries, “the happiest roomful of pictures in town. With bright, clear colors and a prancing brush, Mr. Moller describes skies, lakes, gardens and stretches of countryside as if he had just discovered them and wanted to let the rest of us in on something joyous.”