Full Name: Wescher, Hertha
- Hertha Wescher
Date Born: 1899
Date Died: 03 March 1971
Place Born: Krefeld, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany
Place Died: Paris, Île-de-France, France
Home Country/ies: Germany
Subject Area(s): Modern (style or period)
Career(s): art critics
Scholar of modernist art, authority on collage, art critic. Kauert’s parents were Heinrich Kauert, a merchant, and Maria Jentges (Kauert). She attended the Lyceum and was tutored privately, receiving her abitur in 1917 in Bonn. She immediately began studying art history, history and archaeology at the Universities of Heidelberg, Munich (under Heinrich Wölfflin) and Freiburg. In Munich, she made close friendships with many who would become important art historians, including Wölfflin students Franz Roh, Hans Curjel, Siegried Giedion, and Carola Giedion-Welcker. This group–all modern art enthusiasts–instilled a passion for modern art in her as well. At Freiburg Kauert studied under Hans Jantzen. She met and married the Jantzen student Paul Wescher in 1923, adopting his surname professionally. She received her Ph.D. in Freiburg (almost certainly under Jantzen) in 1924, writing her dissertation on the 16th-century painter Sebastian Dayg. After graduation, her husband secured a position at the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (State Museum in Berlin) and she volunteered at the graphics division there as well, working under Max J. Friedländer. Through Friedländer she secured a position with the scholar assembling the Peter Paul Rubens catalogue raisonné, Ludwig Burchard. Wescher became involved in the comtemporary art scene in Berlin, both through Roh, Curt Glaser, Curjel and the artist László Moholy-Nagy. Strong supporters of the Weimar Republic and the Bauhaus school of architecture, she and her husband’s views were directly opposed to the conservative art ideology of national socialism. With the accession to power of Hitler in 1933 the couple moved to Paris. Wescher worked as a journalist and, between 1936-1937, as a correspondent for the English art magazine Axis. She helped organize the Freier Künstlerbund, among whose members were the art historians Sabine Spiro and Paul Westheim. With France’s entrance into World War II, she was interned in 1940. She and her husband fled to Switzerland in 1942, settling in Basle. At the conclusion of the war, she separated from her husband, returning to Paris in 1945. Wescher wrote freelance articles and in the early 1950s for Art d’Aujourd’hui. In 1953 she helped found the journal Cimaise. Among her topics at this time were collage. Wescher wrote a major monograph on the art form in 1968, Die Collage. She died of a heart attack at age 72. Wescher’s career eclipsed that of her husband’s, prinicipally through her specialty in the relatively unpublished area of collage. She became an authority on it and an early exponent of non-figurative art. The New York Times termed her book on collage “a definitive summing up on that major technique in [the] 20th century.” She and the Museum of Modern Art’s Bill Seitz (through his 1961 show and book Art of Assemblage) were the two main theorist until the late 20th century.
[dissertation:] Sebastian Dayg: Beiträge zur Geschichte der fränkisch-schwäbischen Malerei im 16. Jahrhundert. Freiburg, 1924, unpublished; Picasso : papiers collés. Paris: F. Hazan, 1960. English, Picasso: papiers colles. Methuen, 1960; Die Collage: Geschichte eines künstlerischen Ausdrucksmittels. Cologne: DuMont Schauberg 1968, English, Collage. New York, Abrams 1971.
Wendland, Ulrike. Biographisches Handbuch deutschsprachiger Kunsthistoriker im Exil: Leben und Werk der unter dem Nationalsozialismus verfolgten und vertriebenen Wissenschaftler. Munich: Saur, 1999, vol. 2, pp. 753-755; [obituaries:] Curjel, Hans. Werk 58 (June 1971): 424; Das Kunstwerk 24 (May 1971): 21, 77; Curjel, Hans. L’Architecture d’Aujourd’hui no. 154 (February 1971): v; “Dr. Herta Wescher, Authority on Art.” New York Times March 5, 1971, p. 39.