Werner Gilles

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Werner Gilles (born August 29, 1894 in Rheydt / Rhineland (today: Mönchengladbach ), † June 23, 1961 in Essen ) was a German painter .


Werner Gilles was born as the fourth of nine children in Mönchengladbach Rheydt as the son of the elementary school teacher Wilhelm Gilles and his wife Katharina. In 1901 the family moved to Mülheim an der Ruhr . In 1913, as a primary school student, he went on a study trip to Holland with his friend Otto Pankok . In 1914, Gilles received a scholarship from the Leonhard Stinnes Foundation to study with Hans Olde and Rudolf Siegmund at the art school in Kassel . He was a war volunteer and until 1918 a soldier in Russia, Serbia and France. In 1919, after the First World War , he first studied art at the Academy in Weimar as a pupil of Walther Klemm , then moved to the newly founded Bauhaus in Weimar in 1921 and was accepted into Lyonel Feininger's class. In 1921 he visited Italy for the first time . At the Bauhaus in Weimar, where he studied until 1923, he made friends with the artists Gerhard Marcks and Oskar Schlemmer . After graduation, he worked in Berlin and made other trips to Italy. In 1926 he moved to Düsseldorf , but soon traveled to Paris and again to Italy. In 1930 he received a grant from the Prussian Academy of the Arts to study at the Villa Massimo in Rome. He then visited the fishing village of Sant'Angelo on Ischia for the first time . During the Nazi era , his works were ostracized and were shown in the Nazi exhibition Degenerate Art in 1937 . 17 of his works were confiscated. Despite being drafted into the Volkssturm at the end of 1944, injuries and a short stay in the hospital, he was still able to occupy atelier 110 in the Berlin studio community in Klosterstrasse (with longer interruptions between 1936 and February 1945) and continue to work there.

From 1951 to 1960 Werner Gilles was an active member of the board of the German Association of Artists , then in 1961 on the honorary board . From 1951 Gilles lived alternately in Munich (in winter) and in summer on Ischia. Here he also had contact with the painter Werner Heldt , who died in 1954 while visiting Gilles' house. In the same year he received the Great Art Prize of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia . In 1957 the city of Düsseldorf awarded him the Cornelius Prize for Painting. Werner Gilles died on June 23, 1961 in Essen.

In 1996 a street in Mülheim an der Ruhr was named after him (Gillesweg).


The stays on the island of Ischia had a decisive influence on Gilles' painting. The tension between the pagan classical antiquity on the one hand and the occidental-Christian culture in the southern landscape of the Italian island on the other hand became his defining subject. He painted oil paintings and watercolors and, in his landscapes, addressed both cheerful and threatening aspects of the area in ever new variations. His painting of the 1920s and 1930s echoes the works of the artists of the Blue Rider .

The later work is characterized by the stylization of the motifs and a rather two-dimensional composition.

Factory cycles (selection)

  • 1933: until 1935 cycle "Dedicated to Arthur Rimbaud"
  • 1947: until 1949 "Orpheus", watercolor cycle
  • 1950: Watercolors for the "Tibetan Book of the Dead"

Exhibitions (selection)


  • Alfred HentzenGilles, Werner. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 6, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1964, ISBN 3-428-00187-7 , p. 397 f. ( Digitized version ).
  • Dieter Honisch (Vorw.): Art in the Federal Republic of Germany 1945–1985 . Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Berlin 1985, ISBN 3-87584-158-1 .
  • Werner Krüger: Werner Gilles, Markus Lüpertz: Oil paintings, watercolors, graphics; Galerie Vömel, exhibition from November 1996 to January 1997. Düsseldorf 1996.
  • Markus Lüpertz: Werner Gilles . Mönchengladbach, 1995.
  • Dreaming and seeing - Werner Gilles. 1894-1961. Published by Beate Reese , Art Museum Mülheim an der Ruhr. With texts by: Anja Bauer, Beate Reese, Guido Reuter. Exhibition cat. October 9, 2011 to January 8, 2012. Wienand Verlag. Cologne 2011, ISBN 978-3-86832-071-8 .
  • Gilles, Werner In: Hans Vollmer (Hrsg.): General Lexicon of Fine Artists of the XX. Century. Second volume (EJ) , EA Seemann, Leipzig 1999 (study edition). ISBN 3-363-00730-2 (p. 246)

Individual evidence

  1. Large Art Exhibition Munich 1963 , Süddeutscher Verlag Munich, official exhibition catalog 1963 (p. 180; ill. P. 227/228)
  2. ^ A b Ernst Klee : The cultural lexicon for the Third Reich. Who was what before and after 1945. S. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 2007, ISBN 978-3-10-039326-5 , p. 184.
  3. s. Short CV Gilles, Werner In: Ateliergemeinschaft Klosterstrasse - Berlin 1933–1945. Artists in the time of National Socialism , Academy of the Arts (Edition Hentrich), Berlin 1994. ISBN 3-89468-134-9 (p. 219f)
  4. kuenstlerbund.de: Board members of the German Association of Artists since 1951 ( Memento of the original from September 25, 2015 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. (accessed on August 4, 2015) @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.kuenstlerbund.de
  5. ^ Artist in Sant'Angelo ; Retrieved August 2, 2011
  6. duesseldorf.de: November 30, 1957: Cornelius Prize of the City of Düsseldorf for Werner Gilles, accessed on February 25, 2017

Web links