Born Berlin, Germany
Died Cambridgeshire, England
Klaus Meyer was born into a non-religious Jewish family in Berlin, 1918; his father was a doctor and his mother a painter. Even though Meyer’s parents were both well integrated into German society and were non-practicing Jews, they both perished under the Nazi regime. In 1935 his father was banned, as a Jew, from practising medicine. This had a devastating effect and was followed by his death in 1937. His mother also died – in Auschwitz, along with other members of his family. In 1938, as the situation worsened for Jews, Meyer fled Berlin almost penniless. He joined his elder brother, composer Ernst Meyer, and his sister in London; he studied graphics at the Central School of Arts and Crafts and also took drawing classes. At the outbreak of WWII, Meyer’s attempt to join the Army was refused; in 1940, he was taken to a prison camp in Shropshire, and then interned in Onchan Camp, on the Isle of Man until 1942. Onchan had an active artistic community and many exhibitions were held there. They also had their own newsletter – The Onchan Pioneer – for which Meyer submitted drawings. He continued to produce art during his internment with the scarce materials available, even using wallpaper as a painting surface. After his release, he worked as a commercial artist on propaganda posters. In 1942, after release from Onchan, Meyer married Celia Petszaft, a fellow refugee from Poland. In the early years of their marriage they had financial difficulties and lived in cramped conditions in Hampstead. Meyer was one of the founding members of the Hampstead Artist’s Council and went on to study painting and printmaking at the Slade School of Fine Art. He then taught at the Hornsey College of Art and Kilburn Polytechnic in the 1960s and 1970s. He also worked as an examiner at Cambridge University. Meyer had many solo and group exhibitions; he found inspiration for his art in the natural environment of the ponds at Hampstead Heath. He was also inspired by literature and poetry, particularly by Goethe and other German writers. His bold style and use of experimental materials carried on into his senior years; he continued to produce right up to his death in 2002, in Cambridge.
Object type print
Medium woodcut on paper
Unframed 45 x 36.5 cm
Framed 62 x 45 cm
Signed signed and dated, bottom right: Klaus Meyer '90
Acquisition Presented by the artist 1996
Accession number 1996-3
Display status On display in 'Refugees: The Lives of Others' until 4 June 2017
Meyer began making woodcuts from his mid-thirties onwards, inspired by his local Hampstead landscape, especially the ponds and the Heath, seen from his garden in the background of this portrait of his daughter, Rachel, based on earlier drawings made when she was younger.