1897 Paul Wieghardt was born in Luedenscheid, August 26. His father was "Malermeister" (Master house painter) and an amateur artist who inspired his four sons to become interested in art. Paul, the youngest, showed a great love for art and books at an early age. Apprenticeship in his father's business.
1915 Called to the army at age 18, he serves on the Eastern front, then in the West. Near Amiens, in 1917, injured in heavy shelling, he loses his ability to speak. Not fully recovered when leaving the hospital, only will power and therapy restore his speech. Perhaps art becomes more important for him because of this experience.
1919 Attends courses at the newly created Volkshochschule (People's University), mostly about art. This fills in his education, interrupted by the war. Comes in contact with youth movement. After father's death two brothers continue the business and Wieghardt works there, which gives him a solid technical background.
1920 Now he decides on formal artistic training and enters the Kunstgewerbeschule (Art-and-Applied-Art School) in Cologne. First he thinks of becoming an architect and studies under Professor Elsaesser.
1923 Wieghardt's openess for new ideas prompts Elsaesser to suggest that he go to the Bauhaus in Weimar. Helped by a stipend and Summer work, he enters the Bauhaus, where Klee, Kandinsky, Moholy-Nagy, Feininger, and Schlemmer are his teachers. But a personal relationship develops only with Klee.
1924 After one year, feeling that he doesn't fit into the Bauhaus, he returns to the Kunstgewerbeschule, Cologne, where he studies Figure and Mural Painting under Professor Seuffert. Now he becomes particularly interested in the human figure. After a year and a half of concentrated studies Wieghardt sets his goals higher.
1925 In the fall he is accepted at the Academy of Fine Arts in Dresden. Very soon he is Master student under Professor Robert Sterl, an impressionist, whose influence on Wieghardt is quite strong. Further stipends, summer work, and occasional sales of paintings, make it possible for him to stay at the Academy for six years. The critics become aware of his work through several shows in Dresden and one in Luedenscheid.
P.W. in his studio at the Brühl´sche Terrasse, Dresden
1931 after finishing his studies with highest honors, he moves on to Paris, where his friend from the Dresden Academy, Kurt Groger, has already established himself and helps Wieghardt in many ways.
1932 First one-man show in Luedenscheid. This spring Wieghardt begins to exhibit in the three major Paris Salons: Salon des Tuileries (then called Salon de Mai), Salon des Independants, and in the fall his work is accepted at the Salon d'Automne, the most prestigious of the Salons. From now until 1939, he exhibits regularly in these three Salons. The critics notice his work, other shows follow. In Paris his involvement with the human figure is confirmed, in color as well as in shape, even though the landscape is still important to him.
1934 Wieghardt and his wife, sculptress Nelli Bar, travel in the Bretagne and Normandie and, in the summer, through Spain to Portugal. He paints till the fall in the small town of Serpa in southern Portugal, where Moorish influence on architecture and population is strong. This new atmosphere adds new brilliance to his paintings.
1936 This year Wieghardt visits Norway for the first time, a country that interests him very much. As always he paints and draws incessantly. Result: a one-man show at the Gallery Halvorsen and participation in several exhibits in Oslo. Another one-man show in Luedenscheid.
1937 Back to France. Invited to exhibit in the French Pavillion at the Exposition Internationale in Paris. The Spanish Pavillion, a simple tent, housed "Guernica" by Picasso,—it's color still wet—a painting that shook the world. Later, in the fall, a six weeks' study trip to London.
1938 At Christmas timeon the way to Oslo again, Wieghardt visits his mother, with whom he had a close relationship built on her complete understanding. It was to be his last visit with her. Exhibit at Gallery Farg och Form in Stockholm.
1939 He paints, exhibits, has private students. Dark clouds over Europe keep the Wieghardts in Norway. He and his wife (of Jewish descent) think of emigrating to the United States. They apply for visas, but the start of World War 2, finds them still in Oslo.
1940 On April 8, bombs over Oslo. The Wieghardts flee, still without U.S. visas. Only with a knapsack, they hike northward, now and then getting a lift from Norwegian military jeeps. Within a week they reach the Swedish border and, thanks to a royal decree that permits all refugees to enter, they cross into Sweden. Three weeks in a transition camp follow. Then, through the help of Swedish friends, they reach Stockholm. Nearby, in a small rest home, operated by nuns, they find work as gardeners. In July, Paris falls—return is impossible now. The U.S. consul suggests that they try to get as close as possible to the U.S. to await the arrival of their visas there. By transferring their savings to Swedish friends, they can pay for third class tickets for the long trip via Russia, Japan, and the Pacific. Unencumbered by luggage, but with sketchbook and pen, they reach Panama in September. Here, finally, they receive the U.S. visas and arrive in New York on November 17. Refugee services, particularly the Quakers, are helpful. For a living Wieghardt paints designs on paper baskets, while he expresses himself as an artist with a set of cheapest water colors. A Quaker course especially geared to refugees, gives them valuable background.
1941 The course over in May, Wieghardts find a place to work in their own field in Cummington, Massachusetts, where a minister has turned over a charming old house to refugees from Europe. The barn behind it serves as studio for both. Now Wieghardt paints with abandon. Already in December a oneman show (together with his wife) in the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. A few days after the successful opening: Pearl Harbour! And the U.S. enters the war.
1942 In the remoteness of the small hill-town Wieghardt continues to paint. He becomes head of the painting department at the "Cummington Playhouse in the Hills", a Summer Art School, where well known artists like Hindemith came as guest lecturers. In the fall a one-man show at the Germanic Museum of Harvard University.
1943 Wieghardt continues his teaching and has a one-man show at Knoedler Galleries in New York. In the meantime the director of the former Quaker course has been called to head another Quaker project: the Friends' Neighborhood Guild in Philadelphia. In a new approach for the Quakers, he wants to stress the arts and calls Wieghardt to create and head the Fine Arts Department. From the three following years date many glowing water colors. At the same time the number of collectors who buy his paintings grows.
1945 A one-man show at the Carlen Gallery in Philadelphia arouses the interest of the famous collector Dr. Albert Barnes. He buys several Wieghardts for his collection.
1946 A second show at Carlen's is almost completely sold out. Wieghardt takes part in group shows in Philadelphia, Chicago, New York, etc. In the Spring the Art Institute of Chicago asks him to teach at their school. This puts Wieghardt in the dilemma of having to choose between this very prestigious school and Philadelphia, to which he feels a strong bond. Finally he decides on Chicago and moves in September. A large new field opens up. His creative approach to teaching, in sharp contrast to the current method, revolutionizes the teaching in the whole school. His own work is enriched by the close contact with youth.
1948 A year of greatest productivity! The paintings from this time are radiant and joyful. Since 1943 he has shown his work in many one-man shows and participated in large regional and national exhibitons. Now he also exhibits again regularly in the Salon d'Automne in Paris, until the death of his friend, Kurt Groger, in 1953.
1950 Mies van der Rohe asks Wieghardt to teach life drawing at the Dept. for Architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT). This in addition to his work at the Art Institute.
1952 Wieghardt's canvases become larger. His work shows an increasing involvement with the figure in space, perhaps due to his early interest in architecture. Important paintings of this time include: Zenobia V Seven, Les Soeurs, Avrala, and many "oil on paper". From now on Wieghardt paints no more landscapes.
1953 Still larger sizes with the same theme: the human figure in a space of abstract architectural design. The circle of his friends, students, and collectors has grown steadily. His influence on painting in the Middle West is recognized.
1956 For the first time since his immigration he exhibits in Germany. (Luedenscheid, Wuppertal, Hagen). Only works on paper are shown: drawings, water colors, oil on paper, but these are quite characteristic for his total work.
1960 At IIT, in Crown Hall, built by Mies van der Rohe, an extensive show including many of Wieghardt's large paintings. In spite of a full teaching schedule, the next two years are so productive artistically that already in -
1962 a second large show is held at IIT with new large paintings, in the more spacious Hermann Hall.
1963 For the past three years Wieghardt has been also chairman of the Department of Fine Arts at the School of The Art Institute. Now, having reached retirement age, this, as well as his teaching at the Art Institute, comes to an end—but not his work at other schools.
1967 First and only visit to Europe since 1940.
1969 In February—March, another large show at Hermann Hall, IIT, the last exhibit during his lifetime. On December 9, Paul Wieghardt dies in Wilmette near Chicago, where he had lived since 1946.