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The Cover
December 6, 2006

Children of the Painter

Author Affiliations

The Cover Section Editor: M. Therese Southgate, MD, Senior Contributing Editor.

JAMA. 2006;296(21):2524. doi:10.1001/jama.296.21.2524

Information about the 20th-century German painter Heinrich Ehmsen (1886-1964) and his work is scant and difficult to come by. Probably best described as an Expressionist painter, he was born in Kiel, Germany, the fifth child of an impoverished basket maker and his wife; by the time the boy was five years old, he was helping to support the family by basket weaving. He began art studies in Kiel at age 15 with a local painter and decided to make the decorative arts his career. There followed a succession of travel and study in such places as Düsseldorf, Munich, and Paris. He was introduced to the Art Nouveau style and associated with members of the influential Der Blaue Reiter group. During this period the landscapes and portraits of his early years gave way to more abstract pictures, though always with the figure as the starting point. World War I brought him fresh experiences and new subject matter. Beginning with a number of studies of the insane in the 1920s, he would henceforth concentrate on the derelicts and rejected members of human society. His themes became war, revolution, and urban blight. Meanwhile, he continued to travel and study abroad, spending considerable time in Soviet Russia, southern France, Rome, and southern Italy.

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