Alice Lex-Nerlinger

Alice Lex-Nerlinger, “Racecar Driver”, 1926, Vintage Silver Print from an Original Photogram, Private Collection

Alice Lex-Nerlinger, was born in 1893 to the owner of a gas lamp factory on Moritzplatz in Berlin-Kreuzberg. Between 1911 and 1916, she studied painting and graphic art at the Teaching Institute of the Museum of Arts and Crafts under painter and lithographer Emil Orlik and other teachers. 

Personal experience of the First World War and the atmosphere of artistic experiment in 1920s Berlin created provided a source of ideas for Alice Lex-Nerlinger’s artistic works: heroism versus the soldier’s death, man and machine, capital and labour, state and censor, and not least, the misogynist. She found stimulus and confirmation in groups of artists with similar attitudes such as the Abstrakten (the Abstracts) and the Association of Revolutionary Fine Artists in Germany founded in 1928. Like Alice Lex, these groups rejected Expressionism, Cubism and Dadaism as bourgeois art. She expressed her political convictions by joining the German Communist Party (KPD) along with her husband Oskar Nerlinger in 1928.

Photographs, newspaper clippings and strikingly contrasted colors, such as red and blue, provided the ingredients for Lex-Nerlinger’s socially critical montages, specializing in photomontages and colored spray painting. Her work was often produced in sequential series creating rhythm and multi-dimensionality. Lex-Nerlinger succeeded in translating the complexity of political statements into simply structured individual images or compositions which prompted discussion and inquiry.

In 1933 Lex-Nerlinger was expelled from the German Association of Fine Artists by the National Socialists and banned from practicing her profession and from exhibiting her artwork. Censorship and this ban on her artwork drove her into engaging in underground political activities against the regime. 

Alice Lex-Nerlinger did manage to survive during National Socialism in Germany; but, fearful of persecution and house searches, she destroyed some of her artworks. After the Second World War, she worked in the German Democratic Republic primarily on official portrait commissions. She was honored with a honorary pension in 1960, which she received with the support of the Germany Academy of Arts, and was honored with the Patriotic Order of Merit of the GDR in 1974. 

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