(Börnchen 1904 – 1976 Possendorf)
The Prisoner of War Werner Jeffré
Signed and dated lower right Curt Querner/ 28. 2. 47
Watercolor and gouache on board
31 x 24 cm (12 ¼ x 9 ½ inches)
The son of a cobbler and a locksmith’s apprentice, Curt Querner was an unlikely young man to pursue the life of an artist. A working-class victim of Germany’s economic crash after World War I, Querner spent years holding jobs as a manual laborer before finally enrolling at the Dresden Art Academy in 1926. He continued working in factories to pay for his education, during which he studied painting under esteemed professors Richard Müller (1874-1954), Georg Lührig (1868-1957) and, most notably, Otto Dix (1891-1969). Towards the end of his studies, Querner embarked on a two-year journey throughout Europe to study the masters, filling sketchbooks with studies of Gothic architecture, Romanesque sculpture and paintings by Rubens, Bruegel and Dürer. Querner’s technique improved from this exposure, however his true interest was depicting a proletarian perspective of Social Realism, reflecting the political consequences on the people of Weimar Germany. In 1930 he completed his studies at the Dresden Academy and became a member of the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) and the Association of Revolutionary Visual Artists of Germany (ASSO). Quener’s involvement with the party became a central subject in his work and stylistically aligned with the artist of the Neue Sachlichkeit.
Querner’s Communist affiliations made life difficult for him in the years leading up to World War II. In 1943 he was drafted and stationed in Norway, where he continued to paint watercolors of the Norwegian coast, small fishing villages and his fellow soldiers. After Germany surrendered in 1945, Querner was held in France as a prisoner of war until June of 1947. While in captivity, Querner created a series of drawings and watercolors of self-portraits and portraits of his fellow prisoners, a testimony to human despair and helplessness. He must have had a close friendship with the subject of the current watercolor, Werner Jeffré, as he depticted his likeness at least five times during their imprisonment. The current work is included in the Curt Querner catalog raisonné (B 267), in addition to two graphite drawings (Figure 1) and two oil paintings on paper also depicting Jeffré.