Paul Leucian Dessau

04/19/2023     General

Lot 458 - Paul Lucien Dessau, Dummer Boy


         Paul Leucian Dessau (1909-1999) was a British artist, entrepreneur, and fireman. Dessau grew up in North London with his brother and mother after losing his father early in life. He was an artistically gifted child and worked an apprenticeship for a commercial studio after high school. After working a year, Dessau and his brother launched their own commercial studio. The venture gave them more creative freedom and placed Dessau's paintings in local London art galleries and shows.

          World War II impeded Dessau's career as an artist. Despite his growing popularity, Dessau failed to earn a commission from the Royal Family to document the war. One possibility is that the wartime art commissioner thought Dessau's expressionist style might obstruct the historicity within his documentation.

          To evade the Draft for the British Military, the Dessau brothers joined the London Auxiliary Fire Service right before the German Blitz of the United Kingdom from 1940-41. Dessau decided to document the war through his paintings. By 1941, realizing he was not the only artist to join the civil defense in response to the war, Dessau recruited fellow artists to document their wartime experiences through their renderings. He became a founding member of the Fireman Artist's Committee, working directly with the London Fire Brigade to provide materials and safe studio spaces for artists to document their wartime experiences.

Lot 464 - Paul Lucien Dessau, The Cyclist


          Paul Leucian Dessau created an opportunity where he was able to continue developing his artistic ability and aesthetic, while also documenting the many atrocities and grievances of war. Many of Dessau’s wartime depictions included demonic figures emerging from the flames and smoke from the Blitz, exaggerating the horrors of war. Historians attest that Dessau’s paintings are some of the most vivid images of these conflagrations that resulted from the German Blitz.

          After the war, Dessau moved to the countryside with his wife to continue his career as an artist. He experimented with new mediums, evoking a sense of intentionality. This emphasis is evident within the hands of the figure depicted in Lot 458, as many of his paintings suggest emotions through expressive gestures. Hayloft Auctions is pleased to offer three works by Paul Dessau in our April auction – lots 458, 459, and 464. Browse the catalog and place your bids before the sale closes on Sunday, April 23rd.