In the first of these two articles about the life and work of the German Post-Impressionist painter Lesser Ury (1861–1931), I looked at his paintings up to 1903.
Painted sometime during the first decade of the twentieth century, Ury’s Berlin Street Scene with Horse-Drawn Cabs closes in on his formula for success. Although he retains considerable detail in the trees and horse-drawn cabs, the wet road now looks like a real water surface, with its reflections perfect. The dull daylight makes it hard to simplify the image any further, though.
His other landscapes of this period were also becoming more distinctive and memorable. Evening at a Lake with a Pine Forest is thought to have been painted at the Grunewaldsee in 1909, and is one of Ury’s most highly chromatic works.
Ury’s pastel painting of A Woman and a Man in a Restaurant from 1910 continues his depictions of café interiors, this time with a tantalising view through the windows of the wet street outside.
Kurfürstendamm, also from 1910, shows what is probably Berlin’s most famous avenue of shops, which is on the western side of the Tiergarten. It is a wet winter day, and there are surprisingly few cabs or people around.
Then, in about 1920, Ury struck gold in this Street Scene at Night, Berlin, which is thought to show Leipziger Straße. Its nighttime setting brings simplification of the motif by the dark, and it has lost the symmetry which had made his paintings of avenues so formal.
In 1922, there was a major exhibition of Ury’s works in Berlin, but he became increasingly reclusive after that.
In the 1920s, when Ury painted this view of a Berlin Street in Sunshine, the motor taxi had become popular. Berlin had started operating the first electric trams in the world in 1881, and its first elevated lines were opened in 1902, by which time most of the city’s tram network was powered by overhead electric lines.
Ury here introduces patches of unexpected colour in the splashes and pools of yellows and blue on the street.
Street in Tiergarten shows the roads becoming crowded with the new motor taxis, in this plein air oil sketch.
These new motor vehicles were more readily simplified almost to their silhouette, as seen in this pastel of Unter den Linden with View of The Brandenburger Gate from the 1920s. This is at the western end of Unter den Linden and shows the edge of the Tiergarten on the far side of the Gate.
Boulevard in Paris (1923) is a small oil sketch painted during one of his visits to France, with even more gestural depiction of its motor taxis.
Nollendorfplatz Station at Night from 1925 is a masterly oil sketch showing this busy railway station to the south of the Tiergarten, in another of Berlin’s shopping districts.
In this view of London in Fog from 1926, Ury looks across the River Thames with the street lights lit on its multiple bridges. I suspect that this looks south to the Elephant and Castle from the Embankment, on the northern bank of the river.
His Coffeehouse Scene in Paris from 1928 is perhaps most interesting for showing the marked change in fashion.
Among the last of his city views is this one of Pariser Platz in Berlin, from about 1930. This is by the Brandenburger Tor at the western end of Unter den Linden, as the leaves on its lime trees start to turn golden brown with the arrival of autumn.
Lesser Ury died in Berlin on 18 October 1931.