Painter, art teacher and art therapy pioneer Arthur Segal was born into a Jewish family in Iași, Romania on 23 July 1875. He studied painting in Berlin, Munich, Paris and Italy, settling in Berlin, Germany, in 1904 and becoming a leading artist in the progressive New Berlin Secession. His first woodcuts were published in Herwarth Walden’s Der Sturm (The Storm), a German art and literary magazine, in 1911, followed by an exhibition at Walden’s gallery in 1912. Segal sought refuge in Switzerland during the First World War, exhibiting with the Dada group at the Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich. During this period he began to make optical experiments in his painting, developing a distinctive type of prismatic Cubism, in which he divided the canvas into eight carefully constructed and balanced schematic fields. From 1923-33 he taught in Berlin, rejecting an offer to teach at the New Bauhaus in Dessau in 1925, and was an active member of the progressive Novembergruppe (November Group); among his circle were Kurt Schwitters and George Grosz.
Following Hitler's accession to the German Chancellorship in 1933, Segal moved to Palma, Mallorca; a year later, three of his oils were included in the 'Exhibition of German-Jewish Artists' Work: Painting, Sculpture, Architecture' organised at the Parsons Gallery, London by German-Jewish dealer, Carl Braunschweig (later Charles Brunswick) in June 1934, comprising 221 artworks by 86 artists suffering persecution under the Nazi regime. In 1936 Segal moved to London and his work became more naturalistic; a self-portrait (Dundee Art Museum), executed in 1939, is darker and more realistic in style than his earlier Cubist works (a second, similar self-portrait, is in Leeds; and another in the Guildhall). In 1940 as a so-called 'enemy alien', Segal was briefly interned on the Isle of Man. Prior to this he had established his own Painting School in London in 1937, which he continued to run with his wife and daughter until his death; his son was the architect Walter Segal. Interested in painting as a therapy for mental illness, Arthur Segal corresponded with psychoanalysts and psychiatrists including Sigmund Freud. In 1944 his work was included in the Summer Exhibition of Paintings, Sculptures and Drawings by Contemporary Artists at Ben Uri Gallery in London and has subsequently been shown on numerous occasions.
Arthur Segal died in London, England on 23 June 1944. His work is in UK collections including the Arts Council Collection, Ben Uri Collection, Dundee Art Galleries and Museums Collection, Guildhall Art Gallery, Leeds City Art Gallery and Tate. In 1973 an exhibition of his woodcuts, arranged by Richard Nathanson, was held at Ben Uri Gallery.