Painter, printmaker and designer Werner Drewes (1899-1985) was born in Canig, Germany, and immigrated to the United States in 1930. A student of the Bauhaus, and a prolific artist and teacher, Drewes worked with many kinds of media and produced numerous woodcuts, etchings, oils, watercolors, drawings and collages over the course of his life.
Drewes served for two years on Germany's Western Front during World War 1, before studying at the Bauhaus, Weimar, from 1921-1922. He then traveled throughout Europe, Asia and North and South America with his wife Margaret before returning to Germany in 1927 and enrolling at the Bauhaus, Dessau. During his time there Drewes forged his artistic ideas from the radical influences of renowned architects and artists including Lyonel Feininger, Johannes Itten, Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, and Oscar Schlemmer, and learned the Bauhaus teaching approach that would serve him throughout his career. In 1930 Drewes, Margaret, and their 2 young sons emigrated to the United States and settled in New York City where Drewes attended the Art Students League. From 1935-1936 he taught drawing and printmaking at the Brooklyn Museum School as an employee of the Works Progress Administration Federal Art Project (WPA FAP). In 1936 he became a founding member of American Abstract Artists and the following year joined the American Artists' Congress and became an American citizen. From 1937-1940 he taught painting and printmaking at Columbia University.
In the early 1940s Drewes taught at the Master Institute in Riverside Museum, New York City, and worked as a technical supervisor for the Graphic Art Division of the FAP. From 1944-1945 he worked at Stanley William Hayter's Atelier 17 improving his intaglio technique and then teaching design, printmaking and photography at Brooklyn College. In 1946 he taught design at the Institute of Design in Chicago before being appointed Professor of Design at the School of Fine Arts of Washington University in Saint Louis, where he continued to teach until his retirement in 1965.
Following Margaret's death in 1959, Drewes married jewelry designer and fellow professor of Washington University, Mary (Maria) Louise Lischer in 1960. On Drewes' retirement he and Maria moved to Pennsylvania where he continued to paint, focusing primarily on still lifes and landscapes. He moved to Washington in 1972 and published his American Indians portfolio, before finally setting in Reston, Virginia, where the Rose Catalog of his prints was published and where he lived as a working and exhibiting artist until his death in 1985.
In October 1984 a comprehensive retrospective, Sixty-Five Years of Printmaking, was held at the then named Smithsonian's National Museum of American Art. Drewes' work can be found in the collections of the Brooklyn Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Museum of Modern Art, National Gallery of Art, New York Public Library, Smithsonian American Art Museum, and the Whitney Museum of American Art.