Richard Oelze »eigene Urbilder«
Paintings and drawings of the 1950s and 1960s

Richard Oelze (1900–1980) is considered, along with Max Ernst, a leading German exponent of Surrealism. Taking the Bauhaus and the New Objectivity style as starting points, he develops with his oeuvre created in Paris from 1933 onwards an own, quite distinctive pictorial language within Surrealism, which often revisits painting techniques of the Old Masters.

Living in Worpswede after 1945, he first shows his works in a solo exhibition in our Bremen gallery in 1952. In 1962 he moves to Posteholz near Hamlin, where he lives a completely secluded life devoted to the pictorial realization of his so-called »eigene Urbilder«, his »own archetypes«. Chosen from Oelze's most prolific work phase – from the 1950s and 1960s – our exhibition presents seven paintings and a number of selected drawings which distinguish themselves by an imagery all its own. Employing the glaze technique of the Old Masters, he produces his so-called »inner landscapes« – cloudy vegetal nature formations sometimes comprising figurative components such as faces and eyes. The »haziness« of certain formal elements, achieved with painterly means, is further enhanced by the enigmatic titles which are independant neologisms chosen from the extensive pool of his notes. Oelze's drawings are not less important than the paintings: Executed meticulously stroke by stroke »they display the same level of perfection«, »almost all of them have a fully valid ›pictorial‹-charakter« (Wieland Schmied 1965).

In post-war Europe, the art of Richard Oelze is on view in the most important exhibitions, including the Documenta II in 1959 and Documenta III in 1964 as well as the Venice Biennal in 1968, where the German pavilion features a large selection of his works among them Nach der Erzählung eines Traumes [After the narration of a dream] now on display. Numerous major public collections possess works by Oelze – among them the Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin, the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf, the Museum des 20. Jahrhunderts, Vienna, and the Museum of Modern Art, New York, which acquired the important painting Erwartung (Expectation) in 1940 already.

Exhibition in Berlin: April 27–June 29, 2019
Tue–Fri 10 am–6 pm, Sat 11 am–3 pm

Richard Oelze
“own archetypes”
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