• Celliste, aquarelle et encre, 31 x 27 cm, 1944. © Daniel Maillet/Nikolaus Mayer

  • Tanz der Internierten, eau-forte d’après un dessin de 1944, 1960. © Daniel Maillet/Nikolaus Mayer

  • Wunsch, Indianer zu werden (illustration de Kafka), 1959. © Daniel Maillet/Nikolaus Mayer

  • Der Bildhauer, peinture à l’huile, 1945. © Daniel Maillet/Nikolaus Mayer

  • Nu, peinture à l’huile, 1928, disparue. © Daniel Maillet/Nikolaus Mayer

  • L’Arbre fantôme et les Alpilles-Provence… après Pearl Harbour, 14/12/1941, aquarelle et encre, 26,3 x 31,1 cm, 1941. © Daniel Maillet/Nikolaus Mayer

  • Der Ausflug ins Gebirge (illustration de Kafka), gravure sur bois, 24 x 31 cm, 1950. © Daniel Maillet/Nikolaus Mayer

  • Maler und Malerin, pointe sèche, 40 x 21 cm, 1930. © Daniel Maillet/Nikolaus Mayer

  • Joueurs de cartes, aquarelle et encre, 29 x 44 cm, 1944. © Daniel Maillet/Nikolaus Mayer

  • Mandelzweig überm zerbrochenen Krug, gravure d’après une peinture à l’huile de 1942, 23,3 x 29 cm, 1971 (une des 12 oeuvres d’Entre Chien et Loup). © Daniel Maillet/Nikolaus Mayer

  • Cevennen, gravure sur bois, 22,5 x 27 cm, 1943. © Daniel Maillet/Nikolaus Mayer

  • Avant la Déportation, gravure d’après un dessin de 1942, 28,5 x 13,8 cm, 1962. © Daniel Maillet/Nikolaus Mayer

Artistic creation against all odds… or how the painter Leopold Mayer from Frankfurt became the artist Leo Maillet (1902 – 1990)

Leo Maillet – born Leopold Mayer – was a Jewish engraver, painter and draughtsman from Frankfurt. His work can be associated with expressionism, expressive realism and New Objectivity. He was a student of Max Beckmann and had an extremely promising career ahead of him but his life took a dramatic turn after the Nazis seized power in Germany. It’s the beginning of a long and arduous odyssey for Maillet, strewn with obstacles and fatal dangers. Interned in France in 1939, he manages to escape from a deportation train in 1942, lives in hiding in the Cevennes region and can finally cross the border to Switzerland where he settles.

A big part of his oeuvre is lost or destroyed. However, even in the most desperate situations, he continues to create and leaves behind around 700 works in different formats and media.

Every story of spoliation is painful but dispossessing an artist has a particularly strong impact. Beyond a purely material loss, it hits an artist’s very identity by erasing all trace of his work. Loss and destruction of works of art signifies the annihilation of a career and its appreciation/acknowledgement. An entire forgotten generation thus waits to be rediscovered.

After the war, Maillet, although deeply scarred, showed an extraordinary tenacity: he initiated lengthy legal reparation and compensation procedures against the French Ministry of Reconstruction and the Federal Republic of Germany. He finally won all his legal battles, which allowed him in turn to relaunch his artistic career.

For more information on Leo Maillet :

Nagel, S., « Leo Maillet – un long combat pour la justice » in Grynberg, A. et Linsler, J. (eds.), L’Irréparable. Itinéraires d’artistes et d’amateurs d’art juifs, réfugiés du ‘Troisième Reich’ en France. Published by Koordinierungsstelle Magdeburg / Comité d’histoire CIVS, 2013






``One of the five greatest German painters and engravers” of the interwar years

” To the extent that I had not already understood this from the files, I discovered the truly tragic destiny of an artist, and at the same time a hard worker whose creative energy in the service of art has remained unchanged […]. I stress that Leo Maillet’s work holds an extremely important artistic value. […]” (Expertise by professor Paul Ortwin Rave, director of Berlin’s Fine Art Library, 1 April 1961)

His work

A story of exile and resilience

Leo Maillet leaves behind an oeuvre of approximately 700 engravings, lithographs, drawings and oil paintings, in a very personal style that falls between expressive realism and New Objectivity.

Several themes run through his life and work: his formative years as a student of Max Beckmann’s, persecution by the Nazis, exile in Paris and the vibrancy of the Paris art scene, the fate of foreign Jews in France, internment, keeping alive with the help of art, music and theatre, his different techniques from engravings to collages, spoliation and the legal battle for compensation.