The German-Jewish surrealist painter Felix Nussbaum was born in Osnabrück in 1904. In 1922 he studies at the Hamburg State School of Applied Arts. In 1923 he attends the private Lewin Funcke School in Berlin. In 1924-25 he is a student of the Berlin School of Fine and Applied Arts and is master student of Hans Meid in 1928-29. As of 1929 he has a studio together with the Polish painter and later partner and wife Felka Platek.
Felix Nussbaum receives a scholarship for the Villa Massimo in Rome in 1932. With the National socialists taking over power in 1933, the political and cultural atmosphere in Germany undergoes drastic changes. His Berlin studio is set on fire because of his Jewish belief, some 150 works fall victim to the flames. His scholarship at the Villa Massimo was at first extended by three months, but then it was cancelled and Nussbaum had to leave suddenly. His paintings are sent to him in Alassio.
In 1935 Felix Nussbaum and his wife are in Paris, from where they travel to Oostende. He changes his place of residence in Belgium several times. The couple lives in Brussels as of 1937. As German troops march into Belgium in 1940, Nussbaum is arrested as a hostile foreigner and has to go to a detention camp in Saint-Cyprien, from where he manages to escape. He goes back to Brussels. Felix Nussbaum hides his paintings with two friends in 1942. He and his wife hide in the apartment of the Belgian sculptor Dolf Ledel. But Nussbaum continues working, despite all miseries – because of the smell of turpentine, which could reveal his hiding place, he works in the basement of the house of an art dealer that he is friends with.
In the 1940s he makes a number of extraordinary self portraits and haunting pictures, dealing with his personal impressions. He makes the Selbstbildnis mit Judenpass (Self Portrait with Jewish Passport) in 1943. Nussbaum and his wife are arrested on June 20, 1944 and are deported to Auschwitz where he dies on July 31, 1944.
Felix Nussbaum is one of the main representatives of New Objectivity. His hometown opens the Felix Nussbaum House in 1998, where 170 works, some two thirds of this oeuvre, are shown.