Gotthard Graubner

* 13 06 1930 | Erlbach, Vogtland
† 24 05 2013 | Düsseldorf

Gotthard Graubner is the main loner among the post-war artists. Undeterred by developments and currents of contemporary art, he dedicated his life’s work to the intrinsic importance and spatial aspect of colour. He became famous for his convex, fabric-like and seemingly immaterial Farbraumkörper (colour-space bodies), which were filled with batting and saturated with paint. These express a very special meditative quality. Works on paper – watercolours, gouaches, etchings and drawings – also make up a large part of his oeuvre.


Works by Gotthard Graubner

Vita Gotthard Graubner

1930

Born in Erlbach in the Vogtland.

1947/48

Studied at the Hochschule für Bildende Künste (now Berlin University of the Arts) in West Berlin.

1948/49

Studied at the Staatliche Kunstakademie Dresden (now Dresden University of Fine Arts).

1949

He was de-registered due to the dismissal of his professor Wilhelm Rudolph.

1951

He recommenced with his studies at the Staatliche Kunstakademie Dresden, but was de-registered again in 1952.

1954

Graubner left the GDR together with his later wife Gitta and resettled in Düsseldorf.

1954–59

Studied at the Staatliche Kunstakademie Düsseldorf. He became the student of Georg Meistermann and Karl Otto Götz.

Toward the end of his studies, he produced plates in very bright colours with singly or dually placed colour forms or gestural colour bundles. Parallel with this, Graubner worked on watercolours with free, flowing colours.

1955

The geometric repertoire of forms was abandoned in favour of work with multiple layers of colour, which resisted delimitation by clearly outlined forms.

1961

First solo exhibition in the Galerie Schmels, Düsseldorf.

After previously painting on burlap or canvas, the artist now changed to smoother materials, for example, to paper stretched on canvas. In addition to soft brushes, he also used rags and sponges to apply the paint, thus achieving a formless and blurred, pulsing colourfulness.

As of 1962

In his sponge gouaches, the artist pressed foam sponges covered with fabric and saturated with paint onto paper in several layers.

When working with the in the meantime voluminous sponges, mostly covered with untreated cotton cloth and saturated with paint, Graubner discovered their inherent pictoriality and mounted these colour bodies onto panels.

He continued to develop these works by stretching a Perlon fabric over the colour body and ground panel, now also painting this from outside. In subsequent years, the artist continued to pursue the theme of the cushion paintings in numerous experiments, for example, in the Lichttrampolinen (light trampolines) – larger formats with upholstered and painted edges and an omitted centre – or the quilt cushion paintings with painting on prefabricated, quilted cushions.

1964/65

Graubner worked as an art teacher at the Lessing-Gymnasium (academic high school) in Düsseldorf.

1965

He was called to the Hochschule für Bildende Künste Hamburg.

Birth of his daughter.

1968

Participation in documenta 4 in Kassel.

1968/69

Graubner altered the spatial effect of exhibition halls by enveloping these in a thick, white fog. He called his environments, which were realised at various locations, Nebelräume (fog spaces).

1969

He was made a full professor at the Hochschule für Bildende Künste Hamburg.

1971

He represented the Federal Republic of Germany at the XI Biennale in São Paulo.

Study trips through Brazil, Colombia, Peru and Mexico.

Beginning of the 1970s

With the help of Perlon fabric, which was in the meantime also available in excess widths, Graubner now produced large-format, flat, upholstered Farbraumkörper (colour-space bodies).

1973

He was made a member of the Akademie der Künste Berlin.

Study trips to India, Nepal and Bhutan.

1975

Exhibition in the Hamburger Kunsthalle.

The canvas succeeded the previously used, delicate Perlon fabric as a pictorial surface in the mid-1970s.

1976–98

Graubner was employed as Professor for Free Painting at the Staatliche Kunstakademie Düsseldorf. Among his students was Katharina Grosse.

1977

Participation in documenta 6 in Kassel.

1980

Several Farbwannen (colour tubs) were produced, flat zinc boxes with colour progressions.

Monographic show in the Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden.

1982

He represented the Federal Republic of Germany at the 40th Biennale in Venice. Over a period of several months he produced a monumental ensemble of Farbraumkörpern (colour-space bodies).

Participation in the Fifth Triennale-India in New Delhi.

1984

Study trip to Japan and China.

1987

Distinguished with the August Macke Prize of the city of Meschede.

1988

Two large Farbraumkörper were produced as a pair of paintings for the Grand Hall of Bellevue Palace in Berlin.

Graubner was awarded the North German Art Prize.

1992

He was honoured with the Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany.

Study trip to Yemen.

1993

Resignation from the Academy of Arts, Berlin.

1995

Professor emeritus at the Hochschule für Bildende Künste Hamburg.

1996

Graubner was made a member of the Saxon Academy of Arts, Dresden.

1998

Professor emeritus at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf.

1999

Commissioned by the German Bundestag, the artist produced a large work for the Reichstag building in Berlin.

2001

Graubner was honoured with the Otto Ritschl Prize, accompanied by an exhibition in the Museum Wiesbaden.

2002

The artist was awarded the Great Cross of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany.

2009

Declared an honorary member of the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf.

2010

The documentary film Gotthard Graubner. Farb-Raum-Körper of the filmmaker Tilman Urbach was produced in the artist’s studio at the Museumsinsel Hombroich in Neuss, which opened in 1987, the collection concept of which he had developed, and was shown in German cinemas in 2015.

The former residential building of the artist and his life companion Kitty Kemr, designed by Erwin Heerich and offering space of around 300 square metres, is today used as an exhibition space.

2013

Graubner died on 24 May in Neuss.

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