Graphic artist, painter and sculptor Walter Horst Nessler was born in Leipzig, Germany on 19 January 1912 and studied at the Castello Italian Art School, and in Dresden and Paris. Although not Jewish, he was greatly opposed to National Socialism and was dismissed from his job as a window dresser after replacing the star on the Christmas tree with a Star of David for a joke. His lampoon alphabet book, 'Das Hitler ABC', was smuggled out of Germany by his first wife, Prudence Ashbee, the daughter of Arts & Crafts architect, C R Ashbee, who acted as Nessler’s sponsor, and he followed in 1937 in order to escape Nazi Party membership and military service. After the outbreak of the Second World War and the introduction of internment for so-called 'enemy aliens', Nessler was interned in Huyton Camp, Liverpool in 1940, and after release, served in the Pioneer Corps for the rest of the war.
Postwar, he visited Paris, where he met Picasso, Giacometti and Cocteau, and his palette brightened. He studied sculpture with Elisabeth Frink at St Martin’s School of Art in 1959 and in his later career was particularly concerned with new materials, such as polyester resin. He exhibited regularly in England, with a number of solo exhibitions at galleries including the Leger Gallery, Redfern Gallery and John Denham Gallery (1984-97), and participated in the exhibition 'London Artists from Germany' (German Embassy, 1978). A retrospective organised by John Denham in 1990 coincided with renewed interest in Germany. Nessler was made an honorary fellow of the Dresden Academy and held a travelling solo show in Berlin, Düsseldorf and Dresden. A catalogue of his major works was published by Ralf Hartweg. Walter Nessler died in London, England on 18 December 2001. A further retrospective, ‘Walter Nessler – Post-war Optimist’, was held at Pallant House Gallery, Chichester in 2019. Nessler's work is in UK collections including the RAF Museum, Hendon; Leicester Museum and Art Gallery; the Usher Gallery, Lincolnshire; and the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, as well as in Dresden, and Sintra, Portugal.