Rupprecht Geiger

* 26 01 1908 | Munich
† 06 12 2009 | Munich

Rupprecht Geiger was a magician of colour. The painter, sculpture, architect, multiple documenta participant and professor at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf was among the outstanding artists of German post-war abstraction and made an international name for himself as a representative of colour field painting.


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Vita Rupprecht Geiger

1908

Born on 26 January as the son of the painter and graphic artist Willi Geiger (1878–1971).

1923–25

Resettlement of the family to Madrid. Travels to Granada, Seville and Morocco, as well as a three-month stay on the Canary Islands characterise this period.

1925

Return to Munich.

1926–29

Study of architecture at the Königliche Kunstgewerbeschule (royal school of arts and crafts) in Munich with Eduard Pfeiffer. Study trips to France and Italy.

1930–32

Geiger completed an apprenticeship as a mason in Munich as a component of his studies.

1933–35

Study of constructional engineering and statics at the Staatsbauschule (state school of building) in Munich.

1936–40

Activity as a freelance architect in various Munich architecture agencies, including with Oswald Eduard Bieber.

1937

Marriage with Monika Bieber, the daughter of Oswald Bieber, also a student of architecture. 1938 and 1940: sons Lenz and Florian were born.

1940–44

Conscription for military service on the Eastern Front in Poland and Russia shortly after the birth of the second son. 1943: he was deployed as a war painter in Ukraine and in Greece in 1944. Geiger kept war journals with pencil drawings and colour sketches and practised painting on his own.

1945

Participation in one of the first group exhibitions of the post-war years in the district court of Prien am Chiemsee.

1948

Three surreal landscapes of the artist were shown in the third "Salon des Réalités Nouvelles" in Paris.

1948/49

The first print editions were created in addition to the bold group of works in irregular formats.

1949

Co-founder of the artist group ZEN 49.

1949–62

Active together with his wife Monika Geiger as a freelance architect.

1951

Design of the façade of the Munich central station as the first public commission for art in architecture.

1952

Following initial experiments with (colour) lithography, Geiger discovered serigraphy, which would play a big role in his work.

1953

The Moderne Galerie Otto Stangl in Munich organised Geiger’s first solo exhibition.

1955

Began working with oil paint.

1959

Participation in documenta II.

1963/64

Poster series for the Musica Viva concert series.

1964

Participation in documenta III. Publishing of the "Werkverzeichnis der Graphik 1948–1964".

1965–76

Professorship for painting at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf. Commenced work with spray gun and acrylic paint.

1968

Participation in documenta IV.

1970

Member of the Akademie der Künste, Berlin.

1972

"Werkverzeichnis Druckgraphik 1948–197"2 published.

1977

Participation in documenta VI.

1978

First retrospective in the Städtische Galerie in the Lenbachhaus, Munich.

1979

Declared an honorary member of the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf.

1983

Member of the Bayerische Akademie der Schönen Künste, Munich.

1985

Retrospectives of his work in Berlin, Ludwigshafen and Düsseldorf.

1988

Retrospective for his 80th birthday in the Staatsgalerie Moderne Kunst in the Haus der Kunst, Munich. Geiger awarded the Great Cross of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany.

1993

Honorary member of the Akademie der Bildenden Künste, Munich, as well as of the Förderverein Lenbachhaus e. V., Munich.

1998

Retrospective for his 90th birthday in the Städtische Galerie in the Lenbachhaus, Munich.

1999

Founding of the Rupprecht-Geiger-Gesellschaft, Verein zur Förderung des Werks von Rupprecht Geiger e. V., based in the Städtische Galerie in the Lenbachhaus, Munich.

2002

Participation in the XXV Bienal de São Paulo.

2003

Published on the occasion of his 95th birthday: "Werkverzeichnis 1942–2002. Gemälde und Objekte, Architekturbezogene Kunst."

2007

Publishing of the "Werkverzeichnis der Druckgrafik 1948–2007".

2008

Numerous exhibitions and retrospectives on the occasion of his 100th birthday, including in the Städtische Galerie in the Lenbachhaus, Munich, the Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin and the Museum für Gegenwartskunst Siegen.

2009

Passed away on 6 December in Munich.

About Rupprecht Geiger

Youth and studies

First pictorial testimonials can already be found with the adolescent Geiger, who filled his diary with pencil drawings and watercolours under the impression of several trips to Spain and Morocco. After completing school, however, he decided to study architecture and remained a self-taught painter.

Wartime deployment

The family father was conscripted for military service on the Eastern Front in 1940. Impressed by the expanses and the atmospheric mood of the Russian landscape, he once again filled his journal with drawings and sketches, painted small landscape watercolours and created his first paintings. Many watercolours and gouaches originated while he was stationed in Greece under the influence of the Mediterranean light.

Post-war period

Because Geiger was first able to recommence with his career as an architect in 1949 with the nascent building activity in Germany, he dedicated himself entirely to painting in the first years following his return from deployment at the front. He worked in egg tempera on canvas, a technique that he continued with until the mid-1950s and experimented with various stylistic approaches. The works of these years are distinguished by powerful, brilliant colourfulness, as well as by an increasing rejection of representationalism. In the winter of 1948/49, Geiger developed radical pictorial solutions with his irregular, sometimes tapering formats. These made him a pioneer in the field of shaped canvases. Already in these years, Geiger began dispensing with associative painting titles and instead began to consecutively number his paintings.

ZEN 49

The ZEN 49 group, which, besides Rupprecht Geiger, also included Willi Baumeister, Rolf Cavael, Gerhard Fietz, Willy Hempel, Brigitte Matschinsky-Denninghoff and Fritz Winter, arose in 1949 from the avant-garde gallery of Otto Stangl in Munich. Geiger’s paintings of these years are characterised by his striving to develop the image exclusively from colour. Large individual forms dominate the image area, which is characterised by modulations and colour progressions transitioning into one another.

After 1949, Geiger was once again awarded commissions as an architect and, together with his wife Monika Geiger, built private homes and housing estates in and around Munich, until he dedicated himself entirely to the visual arts after 1962. The formal repertoire of his painting was now reduced to rectangle, circle and oval, which would remain the central elements of his pictorial work.

The colour red

Starting from the “Rotbild [Bild 3] (Red painting [Painting 3])“ of 1961, an area-filling modulation from black through cadmium red to light rose in various nuances, the colour red became increasingly important in Geiger’s work. “Red is life, energy, potency, power, love, warmth, strength. Red makes one high”, according to the artist. The intense red, in a variety of hues, shades and intensities, not seldom paired with yellow and orange to create a sultry colour effect, characterised his work from now on and can be viewed as Geiger’s painting programme.

1976 Professor at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf

The years of teaching at the Düsseldorf academy from 1965 to 1976 are characterised by numerous work innovations. Most noteworthy is the use of fluorescent colour pigments bonded with acrylic dispersion, as well as the abandonment of traditional painting with its individual brushwork in favour of work with a spray gun. This enabled not only an immaculately even, anonymised application of paint, but also a finely and precisely adjusted transition of gentle, coloured gradations. A series of paintings with ovals that define the image appeared from 1968 to 1970. These extended over the years to sawn out wooden panels that seemed like floating objects on the wall.

Once again, red

At the end of the 1970s, red once again ultimately asserted itself as the exclusive colouration of his paintings and oscillated between a cold magenta and a warm orange-red. Several colour spaces were created, including a walk-in colour tank in 1975 with brilliantly red coloured inside walls for the Museum Folkwang in Essen, the monumental Rote Trombe (red whirlwind) [together with his son Florian Geiger] in 1985 for the Schauwerk Sindelfingen and a colour space in 1989 for the Städtische Galerie in the Lenbachhaus, Munich with the title Neues Rot für Gorbatschow. (New red for Gorbachev).

The late work

As of the mid-1980s, the artist once again developed new work groups, including formal-abstract wood objects with the title “Metapherzahlen 0–9 (Metaphor numbers 0–9)”, large-format roll images up to 7 metres long and collages. In 2002, the in the meantime 93-year-old artist presented a space work consisting of four large-format canvasses at the XXV Bienal de São Paolo.

Works in public space

Already in 1951, Geiger received his first public commission and designed the façade of the Munich central station with mosaic-like, joined aluminium slats. In the 1980s and 1990s, this was followed by several more commissions, including outdoor sculptures in front of the Münchener Rückversicherungs-Gesellschaft (1973), the “Gerundetes Blau (Rounded blue)” object in front of the Gasteig culture centre (1987), as well as the installation Farbkomposition Rot (Colour composition red) in the Munich University of Applied Sciences (1990) and a frieze for an interior in the German Bundestag (1999).

More information about Rupprecht Geiger

Text authored and provided by Dr. Doris Hansmann, Art historian

Studies of art history, theater, film and television, English and Romance Languages at the University of Cologne, doctorated in 1994. Research assistant at the Art Museum Düsseldorf. Lecturer and project manager at Wienand Verlag, Cologne. Freelance work as an author, editor and book producer for publishers and museums in Germany and abroad. From 2011 chief editor at Wienand Verlag, from 2019 to 2021 senior editor at DCV, Dr. Cantz’sche Verlagsgesellschaft, Berlin. Numerous publications on the art of the 20th and 21st centuries.

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