Friedrich Ahlers-Hestermann was born in 1883 in Hamburg. His father was a merchant and despite the fact that his family had had other plans for Friedrich, they supported him in his wish to become an artist. Upon the recommendation of Alfred Lichtwark, owner of the Kunsthalle Hamburg, Friedrich Ahlers-Hestermann became a pupil of Arthur Siebelist.
He was stylistically influenced by Siebelist's predilection for plein air painting. In 1903, for the very first time, Friedrich Ahlers-Hestermann exposed some of his works in public and then terminated his painting lessons with Siebelist.
Impressed by the first van Gogh exhibition in Hamburg, Ahlers-Hestermann went to Paris in 1907 and stayed there until 1914. Cézanne's work had an enduring impact on Ahlers-Hestermann after he had seen it in Paris.
From 1910 Ahlers-Hestermann belonged to the circle of German artists (Purrmann, Moll et al) who frequented the Café du Dôme. His studies at the painting school run by H. Matisse led to the "Marnelandschaften" ["Marne Landscapes"], an early highlight in Ahlers-Hestermann's career.
He travelled to Italy, Corsica, England and Russia. In 1913 he met the Russian painter Alexandra Povorina, whom he married in 1916. Ahlers-Hestermanns early work represents a modulated form of Expressionism with emphasis on harmonious form.
From 1916 there are also Cubist elements. On his return to Hamburg, Ahlers-Hestermann began to teach at the Koppel Art School in 1918. One year later Ahlers-Hestermann joined the Hamburg Secession and became chairmen of the Hamburg artists' association between 1924 and 1930. In 1928 Ahlers-Hestermann was given a teaching post at the Cologne Werkschule under R. Riemerschmid but was forced to leave in 1933 for political reasons. Beeing unable to teach and show his work publicly, Ahlers-Hestermann devoted himself to writing.
By 1930 he had begun to work by free association, often linked with natural symbolic content. Ahlers-Hestermann's figurative compositions, still lifes and landscapes reveal his characteristic talent for harmonious arrangement of colour, his feeling for the values of distance in relation to color and a sensitive exploration of the possibilities of translating natural models into an analogous pictorial form.
After the second world war, Friedrich Ahlers-Hestermann became director of the Landeskunstschule Hamburg, a member of the academies in Hamburg and Berlin and received numerous art awards (Berlin Art Award 1962) and distinctions (Grand Federal Service Cross 1960).
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