Ernst Wilhelm Nay




Previous exhibitions by the artist Ernst Wilhelm Nay, which took place in Galerie Fred Jahn regularly from 2002 on, presented an extensive selection of paper works from the oeuvre of this important German watercolour painter.
In the exhibition at Galerie Jahn und Jahn, the focus will be exclusively directed towards works from 1948 to 1951. This focus on three years allows for contemplation through a symbolic magnifying glass which paradoxically reveals the artist’s entire working method. The paintings, drawings, gouaches, and watercolours which will be on display were made in his secluded studio in Hofheim, Hesse, procured for him by Hanna Bekker vom Rath directly after the war.

Although Nay, as a ‘degenerate’ artist during the Second World War, could only proceed with his work to a limited extent, he used the time to further develop his ideas, the foundations of which had already been laid before his employment ban in 1937. Writing in a letter as early as 1931 he stated: “What I want: an interpretation of the supernatural world that exists within us as an organic law. This organic law develops the image-idea. As such, the ego becomes a puppet”.[1] This holistic view, to which he felt artistically obligated, is reflected in his profound connection to nature.
His pieces from the series ‘Hekatebilder’ (1945-1948) embrace the mythical without getting lost in content: his mythological protagonists, such as Hekate, the classical goddess of death, magic and transformation, or Sybille, known as a visionary or fortune-telling woman of antiquity, stroll and merge with Arcadian landscapes. Nay strives to “let the mythical itself appear, not as representation, but as an event of the image”[2]. His struggle for inspiration reflects a fresh artistic start and his self-assurance as an artist after the extreme restrictions of the Nazi dictatorship. This is not, however, synonymous with a radical shift within his work, rather a recollection of the solid foundations that constituted his early career.

As a result of his affinity for series and variations on themes, “he increasingly moved away from recognisable motifs, reorganised the elements of an image and headed towards the border between ‘abstracted’ and ‘abstract’”[3]. His ‘Fugale Werke’, created between 1949 and 1951, evoke the world of music, from contemporary classical music to jazz. Nay responded in visual form and transformed auditory experience. It seems as if a colourful interplay of forms full of rhythm, vitality, speed, and passion passes by, is paused for one, decisive moment and “continues to move forward in a wave-like manner from picture to picture” as a separate section “of the greater whole”.[4]

Rather than paint the current events of his time, capturing the contemporary mood or themes of the post-war era, Nay invariably searched for signs of these events within himself. “Without stimulation from the visible world no image can emerge, but the aim remains the transformation of this beginning within the process of making”.[5] Like a pendulum, he moves between inside and outside, between the conscious and unconscious, and lets it flow into his images, which he interprets “as a synoptic synthesis”. [6]

[1] E. W. Nay, Das Lesebuch. Selbsterzeugnisse und Schriften 1931–1968, Cologne 2002, p. 12.
[2] Exhibition catalogue, E. W. Nay, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (et al.), 1998, p. 23.
[3] Exhibition catalogue, E.W. Nay, Galerie Fred Jahn, Munich 2015, p. 5.
[4] E. W. Nay, Das Lesebuch. Selbsterzeugnisse und Schriften 1931–1968, Cologne 2002, p. 12.
[5] Exhibition catalogue, E. W. Nay, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (et al.), 1998, p. 23.
[6] Exhibition catalogue, E.W. Nay, Galerie Fred Jahn, Munich 2015, p. 5.



Ernst Wilhelm Nay is born on 11 June in Berlin


Studies at the Hochschule der Bildenden Künste in Berlin in the painting class Carl Hofer by scholarship


Nay is banned from exhibiting in Germany

In the “Degenerate Art” exhibition, he is represented by two paintings


Deployment in France

Released from the army in May 1945


First post-war exhibitions in various galleries


Venice Biennale


Begins the work periode “Rhythmische Bilder”

Art Prize of the City of Cologne

Karl Stöher Prize, Darmstadt


Publication of the manifesto-like text “Vom Gestaltwert der Farbe”

Lichtwark Prize of Hamburg

documenta 1 in Kassel and Biennale in São Paulo

First solo exhibition at the Kleemann Gallery in New York


Solo exhibition at the German Pavilion of the Venice Biennale

Appointed a member of the Akademie der Künste, Berlin

Grand Prix of North Rhine-Westphalia for Painting


Guggenheim-Price, New York (German Section)


documenta 3 in Kassel (exhibited paintings now on permanent loan to the Federal Chancellery in Berlin)

Berlin Art Prize


Grand Cross of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany


Ernst Wilhelm Nay dies on 8 April in Cologne

Selected Solo Shows


Ernst Wilhelm Nay. 1948–1951 – Jahn und Jahn, Munich


When Moses meets Nay – Grisebach GmbH, Berlin


Ernst Wilhelm Nay – Amine Rech Gallery, London

Ernst Wilhelm Nay. Bilder der 60er Jahre – Michael Werner Kunsthandel, Cologne


NAY 1964 – Aurel Scheibler, Berlin (cat.)


E.W. Nay. Gouachen und Zeichnungen 1944–1967 – Galerie Fred Jahn, Munich (cat.)


Ernst Wilhelm Nay. Bilder – Michael Werner Kunsthandel, Cologne


Ernst Wilhelm Nay. Das polyphone Bild. Gouachen, Aquarelle, Zeichnungen (retrospective) – Kunstmuseum, Bonn; Museum Liner, Appenzell; Mönchehaus Museum, Goslar (cat.)


Ernst Wilhelm Nay. Arbeiten auf Papier. Works on Paper – Michael Werner Kunsthandel, Cologne; Michael Werner Gallery, New York (cat.)

Ernst Wilhelm Nay. Painitngs / Drawings – Mary Boone Gallery, New York; Michael Werner Gallery, New York (cat.)


E.W. Nay – Peill-Forum, Leopold-Hoesch-Museum, Düren


E.W. Nay. Aquarelle und Gouachen 1941–1967 – Galerie Fred Jahn, Munich (cat.)

Ernst Wilhelm Nay – Galerie Thomas Modern, Munich


Ernst Wilhelm Nay. Malerei und Grafik – Kunstverein Talstrasse, Halle/Saale (cat.)

E.W. Nay. Bilder der 1960er Jahre – Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt am Main; Haus am Waldsee, Berlin (cat.)


New Acquisitions. E. W. Nay. Weiße Quelle, 1963 – Tate Modern, London


Ernst Wilhelm Nay. Organismus der Farben und Formen – Galerie Schlichtenmaier, Stuttgart (cat.)

Ernst Wilhelm Nay. Early Drawings / Late Paintings – Galerie Karsten Schubert, London


E.W. Nay. Aquarelle und Gouachen 1937–1968 – Staatliche Graphische Sammlung, Munich; Folkwang Museum, Essen; Musée d’Art Moderne et Contemporain, Strasbourg (cat.)


Ernst Wilhelm Nay (1902–1968). Ölgemälde. Auf Papier – Hubertus Melsheimer Kunsthandel, Cologne (further presentations until today)


E.W. Nay. Variationen, Retrospektive zum 100. Geburtstag – Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung, Munich; Kunstmuseum, Bonn (cat.)

E.W. Nay. Zeichnung und Druckgraphik aus der Graphischen Sammlung im Städel – Graphische Sammlung im Städelschen Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt am Main


Ernst Wilhelm Nay. Bilder und Originalmanuskripte – Galerie Aurel Scheibler, Cologne (further presentations until today, i.a. in Berlin)

E.W. Nay. Werke auf Papier 1942–1962 – Galerie Fred Jahn, Munich

E.W. Nay. Späte Bilder – Galerie Sander, Berlin


Ernst Wilhelm Nay. Die Druckgraphik – Kunstverein Göttingen und Kulturamt der Stadt Göttingen, Göttingen; Städtisches Kunstmuseum Spendhaus Reutlingen, Reutlingen (cat.)


E.W. Nay. Aquarelle, Gouachen, Zeichnungen (retrospective) – Kunsthalle in Emden, Stiftung Henri und Eske Nannen, Emden; Saarland Museum, Saarbrücken (cat.)


Ernst Wilhelm Nay – Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Gemäldegalerie Neue Meister, Dresden; Wilhelm-Lehmbruck-Museum, Duisburg (cat.)


Ernst Wilhelm Nay. Die Hofheimer Jahre 1945–1951 – Städtische Galerie im Städel, Frankfurt am Main; Museum der bildenden Künste, Leipzig (cat.)


Ernst Wilhelm Nay. 1902–1968. Paintings and Works on Paper – Fischer Fine Art, London


Ernst Wilhelm Nay Retrospektive – Museum Ludwig in der Josef-Haubrich-Kunsthalle, Cologne; Kunsthalle Basel, Basel; Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh (cat.)


Ernst Wilhelm Nay. Lofotenbilder. Ausstellung zu Ehren von Carl Georg Heise (1890–1979) – Overbeck-Gesellschaft, Lübeck (cat.)


Ernst Wilhelm Nay. Ölgemälde, Aquarelle, Zeichnungen – Galerie Sander, Darmstadt (cat.)

Ernst Wilhelm Nay. Das graphische Werk aus der Sammlung Günther und Carola Peill (retrospective) – Leopold-Hoesch-Museum, Düren; Museum Ludwig, Cologne (cat.)


Bilder kommen aus Bildern. E.W. Nay 1902–1968. Gemälde und unveröffentlichte Schriften aus vier Jahrzehnten – Museum Haus Lange, Krefeld; Westfälischer Kunstverein, Münster; Kunstverein in Hamburg, Hamburg (cat.)


Ernst Wilhelm Nay. 1902–1968 – Galerie Michael Haas, Berlin (cat.)


E.W. Nay. Zeichnungen (retrospective) – Städtisches Museum Schloß Morsbroich, Leverkusen (cat.)


E.W. Nay. Arbeiten auf Papier 1948–1968 – Galerie Schellmann & Klüser, Munich

E.W. Nay. Bilder und Dokumente (Retrospektive) – Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nürnberg; Haus der Kunst, Munich; Bayer-AG Erholungshaus, Leverkusen; Wilhelm-Hack-Museum, Ludwigshafen am Rhein; Neue Galerie, Kassel (cat.)


Ernst Wilhelm Nay. Aquarelle und Gouachen (retrospective) – Staatliche Graphische Sammlung, Munich; Staatliche Kunsthalle, Karlsruhe (cat.)


Nay. Zeichnungen (retrospective) – Jahrhunderthalle Hoechst, Frankfurt am Main; Neue Galerie, Kassel; Kunsthalle Tübingen, Tübingen; Galerie Der Spiegel, Cologne; Lippische Gesellschaft für Kunst, Schloß Detmold, Detmold (cat.)


E.W. Nay. Das kleine Format. Zeichnungen aus Le Mans 1942–44 und Hofheim 1945–51 – Galerie Herbert Meyer-Ellinger, Frankfurt am Main (cat.) (further presentations until 2002)

Nay. Un Maestro del Color. Obras die 1950 a 1968 – Museo de Arte Moderno, Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes, Mexico City


Ernst Wilhelm Nay. Gemälde, Gouachen, Zeichnungen, Graphiken – Galerie Orangerie-Reinz, Cologne (further presentations until 2002)

Ernst Wilhelm Nay. Die Druckgraphik – Kunsthaus Schaller KG, Stuttgart


Nay – Kölnischer Kunstverein, Cologne; Kunsthalle Bremen, Bremen (cat.)


E.W. Nay. Bilder aus den Jahren 1935–1968 (retrospective) – Museum Städtische Kunstsammlungen, Bonn (cat.)


E.W. Nay (retrospective) – Wallraf-Richartz-Museum, Cologne; Nationalgalerie, Berlin; Städelsches Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt am Main; Kunstverein in Hamburg, Hamburg (cat.)

Nay. Aquarelle (retrospective) – Richard Kaselowsky-Haus, Bielefeld; Saarland Museum, Saarbrücken (cat.)


E.W. Nay – Goethe-Center, San Francisco


Ernst Wilhelm Nay – Galerie im Erker, St. Gallen (cat.)


E.W. Nay (retrospective) – Museum des 20. Jahrhunderts, Vienna (cat.)


E.W. Nay (retrospective) – Württembergischer Kunstverein, Stuttgart; Akademie der Künste, Berlin; Städtische Kunsthalle, Mannheim (cat.)


Ernst Wilhelm Nay. Malerier / Akvareller – Holst Halvorsens Kunsthandel, Oslo (cat.)


Ernst Wilhelm Nay. Gemälde 1955–1964 – Kunstverein in Hamburg, Hamburg; Badischer Kunstverein, Karlsruhe; Frankfurter Kunstverein Steinernes Haus, Frankfurt am Main (cat.)


I. Internationale der Zeichnung. Sonderausstellung Ernst Wilhelm Nay – Mathildenhöhe Darmstadt, Darmstadt (cat.)

Ernst Wilhelm Nay – Knoedler Gallery, Paris (cat.)

Ernst Wilhelm Nay – Westfälischer Kunstverein, Münster (cat.)


Willi Baumeister / Ernst Wilhelm Nay – Kunsthalle Basel, Basel (double exhibition; cat.)


E.W. Nay. Gemälde, Aquarelle, Zeichnungen von 1932 bis heute – Frankfurter Kunstkabinett, Frankfurt am Main

Hanna Bekker vom Rath, Frankfurt am Main (cat.)

E.W. Nay – New London Gallery, London (cat.)


E.W. Nay (retrospective) – Kunstverein für die Rheinlande und Westfalen, Düsseldorf (cat.)

Ernst Wilhelm Nay – Kaiser-Wilhelm-Museum, Graphisches Kabinett, Krefeld


E.W. Nay – Museum der Stadt Ulm, Ulm

Ernst Wilhelm Nay. Peintures, Aquarelles, Gravures aux sucre 1938–1958 – Galerie Les Contemporains, Brussels (cat.)


Ernst Wilhelm Nay. Deutscher Pavillon – 28 Biennale di Venezia, Venice (cat.)


Ernst Wilhelm Nay. Gemälde und Aquarelle – Leopold-Hoesch-Museum, Düren

E.W. Nay – Kunstverein in Hamburg, Hamburg

E.W. Nay. Gemälde, Aquarelle, Zeichnungen 1951–1955 – Kestner-Gesellschaft, Hanover (cat.)

Ernst Wilhelm Nay – Kleemann Gallery, New York (cat.) (further presentations until 1959)


Ernst Wilhelm Nay. Bilder, Gouachen, Aquarelle und Zeichnungen von 1927–1954 – Galerie Der Spiegel, Cologne (furhter presentations until 1976)


E.W. Nay. Ölgemälde, Aquarelle und Graphiken – Kunstverein für die Rheinlande und Westfalen, Düsseldorf; Overbeck-Gesellschaft, Lübeck; Kunstverein in Bremen in der Kunsthalle Bremen, Bremen; Frankfurter Kunstverein Steinernes Haus, Frankfurt am Main

Ernst Wilhelm Nay (retrospective), Kunstverein Freiburg, Freiburg im Breisgau (cat.)


E.W. Nay. Arbeiten der Jahre 1924–1952 (retrospective) – Haus am Waldsee, Berlin (cat.)


E.W. Nay (retrospective) – Kestner-Gesellschaft, Hanover (cat.)


E.W. Nay. Bilder des Jahres 1947, Galerie Dr. Werner Rusche, Cologne (cat.)


Ernst Wilhelm Nay. Bilder, Gouachen, Zeichnungen – Galerie Dr. Werner Rusche, Cologne

Ernst Wilhelm Nay. Ölbilder – Galerie Franz, Berlin (cat.)

E.W. Nay. Gemälde, Aquarell, Gouache, Zeichnung – Kunstverein in Hamburg, Hamburg; Overbeck-Gesellschaft, Lübeck


E.W. Nay – Galerie Gerd Rosen, Berlin

E.W. Nay – Galerie Günther Franke, Munich (further presentations until 1973)