Werner Drewes was born in Germany. He began his artistic education there, including several years at the famous Bauhaus design school studying with Paul Klee and Wasiliy Kandinsky. After moving to the United States in 1930, he produced two series of woodcut prints, Manhattan (1932) and It Can't Happen Here (1934), which were among the earliest abstract prints issued in the United States. In 1944 Drewes learned the technique of engraving from Stanley William Hayter in New York. It was in Hayter's workshop that Drewes met Alexander Calder, Minna Citron, Mauricio Lasansky, Gabor Peterdi, Marc Chagall, and Yves Tanguy. Drewes became an ardent promoter of abstract art and co-founded the group American Abstract Artists. He taught at Columbia University from 1937 to 1940 and at Washington University in St. Louis from 1946 to 1965.
Widely exhibited, his own work was cubist-inspired and ranged from color woodcuts such as Beginning Motion to the more refined look of engravings such as Construction (both 1944). In all of his prints he used the abstract language of shape and color to convey ideas and sensations.
[This is an excerpt from the interactive companion program to the videodisc American Art from the National Gallery of Art. Produced by the Department of Education Resources, this teaching resource is one of the Gallery's free-loan educational programs.]