Helmut Krommer

Helmut Krommer, painter
Helmut Krommer during his period of exile in England, undated
Nürnberg, GNM, DKA, NL Krommer, Helmut, I, B (2), by kind permission of Barbara Sadagopan

Helmut Krommer

Lord Cromer-Peniless of Guildford

I am a foreigner and I am proud of it. I have been living among foreigners most of my life and I like foreigners. As an artist I received much kindness and help from foreigners.

Helmut Krommer during his period of exile in England, as printed in the magazine of the All Nations Club of Guildford, not-dated

Bornon 17 September 1891 in Troppau, Austria-Hungary, today: Czech Republic (Moravia)
Diedon 6 June 1973 in Dobbs Ferry, United States of America (USA)
ExileCzechoslovakia, Great Britain (United Kingdom)
ProfessionPainter, Graphic designer

Helmut Krommer initially followed in his father’s footsteps and pursued studies in law. It was some time later that he changed career paths and took up fine arts. He visited academies in Vienna and Karlsruhe and settled in Berlin in 1921 where he worked as a painter and graphic artist. He quickly drew the attention of the authorities after the Nazi seizure of power, as a result of his committed political involvement with the social democrats. For that reason, he, his Jewish wife and his two daughters left Germany in May 1933.

Krommer, who was born in Moravia, brought his family to Prague where work and money proved hard to come by for the self-employed artist. In April 1939, Krommer, who maintained his openly anti-Hitler political stance while in exile, fled from the invading German forces and travelled to the Balkans, spending time in Yugoslavia and Greece. It was not until the summer of that year that Krommer was reunited with his family, who had emigrated to England ahead of him. Guildford, near London, was the next place of residence for the political exile. He did not lose his sense of purpose while in England and jokingly referred to himself as “Lord Cromer Peniless of Guildford” as a comic reference to the hardships he had been subjected to in the preceding months and years.

After 1945, Krommer, as a Sudeten German, was unable to return to his homeland. He took the decision to emigrate to the USA where one of his daughters had married. He lived in humble surroundings in Boston and struggled to provide for himself as a self-employed artist. His expansive life’s work is housed at Vienna’s Albertina museum and the German Kunstarchiv in Nuremberg, among other locations, although the bulk of his art is still in the possession of his family. It stands as a document of the life of a much-travelled artist whose career was endangered and impeded by the Nazi regime.

Further reading:
Krommer, Helmut: Prager Kirchen. Prag: Selbstverlag 1935