Adolf Erbslöh was a German painter who early in his career participated in progressive art circles in Munich that brought him in direct contact with the international avant-garde, among them the Cubist artists and dealers. Erbslöh amassed an art collection that encompassed works of his contemporaries, including Picasso.
Born in New York, but after 1888 raised in Barmen in western Germany, Erbslöh came from a middle class background. His father, Gustav Adolf Erbslöh, was a partner in the import-export company Dickerhoff, Raffloer & Co. In the early 1900s, after a three-year period of traveling and studying abroad, Erbslöh enrolled at the Academy of Fine Arts in Karlsruhe. In 1904 he moved to Munich, where he continued his art education under local artists and eventually established his own studio. Three years later the artist married Adeline Schuchard (1880–1974), daughter of a wealthy industrialist family from Wuppertal-Barmen. Influenced by Post-Impressionism, Erbslöh gravitated toward local Munich artists with similar interests in modern, radical art. He befriended Russian artists, among them the emerging Expressionists Alexei von Jawlensky, Marianne von Werefkin, and Vasily Kandinsky, with whom he formed the Neue Künstlervereinigung München (New Artists Association of Munich, or NKVM) in 1909. Kandinsky served as the president and Erbslöh as the secretary and chairperson of the group’s exhibition committee. With the position, Erbslöh took charge of the organizational matters of NKVM, a task that required frequent travels within Germany and abroad. The three exhibitions organized by NKVM during its brief existence in 1909, 1910, and 1911 took place at Heinrich Thannhauser’s Moderne Galerie in Munich and all drew harsh criticism. Erbslöh’s paintings were included in all three shows. The second exhibition, mounted in September 1910, had an international scope. In its preparation, Erbslöh spent three weeks of May 1910 in Paris, establishing contacts with local artists, among them Picasso. The exhibition included three works by Picasso and four by Georges Braque, all supplied by the Cubist dealer Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, and offered for sale at the exhibition.
In addition to his work with NKVM, Erbslöh exhibited widely in solo and group shows, among them the 1912 Sonderbund exhibition in Cologne. During this period, Erbslöh also initiated a personal art collection comprising works by the artists associated with the NKVM, as well as Picasso, Robert Delaunay, and Van Gogh. By 1913 Erbslöh owned and possibly lent Picasso’s Still Life with Bouquet of Flowers (1908; Private collection, New York/Daix and Rosselet 1979, no. 197) to the artist’s first retrospective held that year at the Moderne Galerie. Enlisted at the outbreak of World War I, Erbslöh spent a portion of his active service with an infantry regiment on the French front as an official war artist. After the war, he continued to paint and exhibit, and in 1931 had a large retrospective in Barmen. His portraits and landscapes from this era show the influence of New Objectivity. During the Nazi regime, which in 1937 identified his paintings as ‘degenerate,’ the artist lived a secluded life in rural Bavaria.
For more information, see
Daix, Pierre, and Joan Rosselet. Picasso: The Cubist Years, 1907-1916. A Catalogue Raisonné of the Paintings and Related Works. London: Thames and Hudson, 1979.
Salmen, Brigitte, and Felix Billeter. Adolph Erbslöh 1881–1947: Werkverzeichnis der Gemälde. Munich: Karl & Faber: Hirmer, 2016.
Wachtmann, Hans Günter. Adolf Erbslöh: Gemälde 1902–1945. Exh. cat. Wuppertal: Von der Heydt-Museum, 1992.