Marking 30 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, this exhibition features more than 130 paintings that speak to the diversity of artistic practices that existed in the German Democratic Republic. Among the 13 artists represented are official GDR artists, those who worked in secret and others involved in counter-movements. Find out more from the Kunstpalast website.
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Elisabeth Voigt was a Leipzig-born painter and printmaker who trained under Käthe Kollwitz and Karl Hofer. Her disposition for vivid colours, well delineated forms and energetic compositions is evident in this depiction of a farmer taming a red bull, which takes its cues from the expressionist style of Der Blaue Reiter. It can be read both a glorifying scene of rural life, in line with the socialist realism espoused by the GDR, and a symbolic image – the artist taming and harnessing nature, for example.
Overlapping slabs of black and white are arranged in a curling serpentine form against a background of faded blue. Through the paint we can make out faint newspaper headlines. Although the GDR was hostile to non-figurative art, Hermann Glöckner was committed to carving out a career as a constructivist painter and sculptor – eventually in 1969, at the age of 80, he succeeded in staging his first major solo show at the Kupferstich-Kabinett in Dresden.
In this monumental portrait of salt miners carrying out their daily routines, we watch the anonymous workers as they finish their shifts, wash their bodies and change their clothes. An avowed socialist realist painter, Willi Sitte was president of the East German Association of Visual Arts from 1974–88, but his status as an artist was at times overshadowed by his political activism.
Born in East Berlin in 1953, Cornelia Schleime studied at the Dresden Academy of Fine Arts but joined underground movements and studied the work of modern artists independently at the Saxon State Library, inspiring her experimental style of collage-making with applied sand or coffee grounds (see the brown figure in this painting of 1986). In 1981 an exhibition ban was imposed on Schleime’s work in the GDR and in 1984, although she was granted permission to leave for West Germany, the majority of her artwork disappeared in the move.