Werner Drewes (German / American, 1899–1985) was born in Canig, Germany. He attended the Stuttgart School of Architecture in 1920 but quickly transferred to the Stuttgart School of Arts and Crafts. After being drafted and serving in the war, Drewes studied at the Bauhaus from 1921 to 1922 with Paul Klee, Wasiliy Kandinsky and many other notable artists. He immigrated to New York City in 1930 and helped found the American Abstract Artists group the following year. He also produced two series of woodcut prints, Manhattan and It Can’t Happen Here in the early 1930s that are considered some of the earliest abstract prints issued in the United States. He continued to study printmaking at Stanley William Hayter’s Atelier 17 in 1944 where he met Alexander Calder, Marc Chagall, and others. Drewes taught at several American institutions including the Brooklyn Museum with the WPA Federal Art Project (1934-1936), Columbia University (1937-1940), Brooklyn College (1941), and Washington University in St. Louis (1946-1965). Drewes continued to teach and produce new artworks until his passing in Virginia in 1985.
Drewes is known as a printmaker, painter, and educator. He is highly regarded for his contributions to the development of American abstract art, especially in printmaking. His work is often associated with the rise of abstraction, cubism, and geometric dynamism. He was heavily influenced by his fellow artists of the Bauhaus, especially Kandinsky. Drewes’ particular style of abstraction is considered more emotional and more closely based on natural forms than many of his contemporaries. Drewes was concerned with the human side of abstraction and engaged with the lived world instead of turning to sterility. His work is included in many major institutions across the United States.