Walther Klemm Biography

Walther Klemm




Painter, printmaker, and illustrator Walther Klemm was born in Karlsbad, Germany, on June 18, 1883. He attended the University of Applied Arts in Vienna, studying under Kolo Moser, Felician Mybach, and George Kenner, followed by courses at the University of Vienna. In 1903, while still a student, he took private lessons in Japanese printmaking from Emil Orlik. 1904 saw Klemm's participation in his first major exhibition at the Vienna Secession before moving to Prague, where he opened a studio with artist Carl Thiemann. Four years later, both artists relocated to Dachau Art Colony near Munich and joined the Berlin Secession and the Deutscher Kunstlerbund. 

Stylistically, Klemm's work ranges from Impressionist to Expressionist but never lingers on one genre for too long. In printmaking, his more graphically designed works echo the high contrast and bold, simplified shapes of Germanic folk art, while he also took great inspiration from Japanese printmakers, due to his association with Emil Orlik. In 1912 Klemm published a portfolio of color woodcuts of birds, titled Vogelbuch, done in the shin-hanga style and he would go on to create more intricate color woodcuts of birds later in his career. His subject matter ranged from the everyday, with images of animals, people, and landscapes, to literary subjects, to erotica bordering on the beginnings of Surrealism.

In 1913 Klemm was appointed graphic arts professor at the Weimar Saxon Grand Ducal Art School, where he remained for the majority of his career. In 1919, he helped found the State Bauhaus printshop in Weimar, for which he operated as chief instructor until Lyonel Feiniger took over in 1921. He continued to work in his own time and in 1928 he entered a painting in the Olympic Games, for which he won a bronze medal. Following its destruction during the unrest of World War II, he helped rebuild the Weimar Art School and was later named an honorary senator of the school's Architecture and Civil Structural Engineering division. 

Klemm died in Weimar, Germany, on August 12, 1957.