Launch of Doc Weissenborn biography

German-born artist Hellmuth Weissenborn (1898-1982) spent the first half of his life in his native Leipzig and the second in London. He was forced to flee his homeland in early 1939 in the face of Nazi terror and found refuge in Britain. Unlike many of his fellow refugees, he never lost his sense of German heritage, even though he settled in England. In this biography, the cultural baggage that he brought with him is explored: life in Weimar Germany, especially in the book arts, is the cultural context of his early life. After World War I (he was conscripted into the German army as a teenager) he returned home with diaries and sketchbooks and enrolled at the world-famous Leipzig Academy of Graphic and Book Arts, studying art, typography and printmaking. Artistic success came early, and soon he moved up into the staff, becoming one of the Academy’s youngest professors. He lost his post for marrying a Jewish woman and later fled Germany for the same reason. In Britain, the 40-year-old Weissenborn struggled to find work but was eventually interned for six months on the Isle of Man in 1940. This resulted in an intensively productive artistic output but also led to the end of his first marriage. On release he embarked on a new phase in his career as printmaker, teacher, and publisher. His second marriage proved to be a creative partnership: he and his wife ran the Acorn Press together. New unpublished material in the form of Weissenborn’s World War I diary, letters from his first wife, and interviews with his former students and colleagues help to give an impression of the man and his life in what is the first full biography of the artist. Family photographs that survived his exile underpin the narrative of his life, while his versatile artistic output is reflected in the many illustrations.

Anna Nyburg is a lecturer in German at Imperial College London. She completed an MA in 1974 at the University of East Anglia in European Literature, and in 2009 she was awarded a PhD in Exile Studies at the University of London, the subject of which was the German-speaking refugees from Nazism to Britain who either created art, publishing companies, or who made contributions as book artists, typographers, or designers.

Oak Knoll Press New Castle, Delaware 2012 6 × 9 inches, hardcover, dust jacket. 192 pages. £18.77

A small exhibition of Doc Weissenborn’s work will be on display on Saturday afternoon 01 December 2012 at Ravensbourne, 12 noon till 5 pm next to the O2 Arena Greenwich Peninsula SE10.