March 19 – June 30, 2021
Works of Abstraction: BOTT – HARTUNG – THIELER – WINTER
Galerie Henze & Ketterer & Triebold
Francis Bott, Karl Hartung, Fred Thieler and Fritz Winter were all artists who were born at the beginning of the last century and, after initial excursions into representational art, devoted themselves throughout their entire lives to abstraction, and mostly in secret, as they were obliged to hide their politically non-conformist works during the time of the National Socialists. Despite these untoward circumstances, all four artists succeeded in continuing to work and further develop their art during the Second World War.
Francis (his actual first name was Ernst) Bott was born in Frankfurt/Main in 1904 and spent many years roving around the world, often taking on other jobs in order to survive as a painter. His first works, from 1933 until the end of the 1930s, were influenced by Realism and, above all, Surrealism. From then on his oeuvre comprised abstract works divided into series that overlapped each other in terms of time. The works shown in our exhibition date from the 1950s and 1960s and visualize the development of his oeuvre from the representational – a bird’s eye view of a city – through to ever more abstract compositions that clearly manifest the artist’s preference for blue. It was during this period that Bott worked primarily with oil colours mixed with sand and other materials, painting not only on canvas but also on hardboard and paper. I once got to know Francis Bott personally and shall never forget how he explained that a work was not perfect unless the composition retained its balance when viewed upside down and on both its sides. He demonstrated this with the aid of a small painting which he held in his hand and turned through a full circle. Francis Bott died in Lugano in 1998.
(Eduard) Karl Hartung was born in Hamburg in 1908 and, from 1928 onwards, after completing his studies at the State School of Art and Design in Hamburg, he undertook a number of lengthy study trips abroad and also lived for several years in Paris and Florence. Hartung created his first abstract sculpture in 1935 and from then on devoted himself both to the representational and the abstract, the latter being kept well hidden from the National Socialists. Hartung worked with a whole diversity of materials, from cement to terracotta and ceramic, from plaster of Paris to stone and bronze. Shown in the exhibition are some examples of Hartung’s works in abstraction, from which one can clearly see that the artist never waived reality entirely but rather created biomorphic forms that evoked living beings. Karl Hartung died in Berlin in 1967.
Fred (his actual first names were Fritz Wilhelm Richard) Thieler was born in Königsberg (now Kaliningrad) in 1916. While his earliest abstract works date from the late 1940s, he too, being the son of a Jewish mother, was forced to lie low during the Nazi era. It was not until 1946 that he was able to study painting at the Academy of Fine Art in Munich. His works are distinguished both by his dynamic use of strong colours and by his thick application of paint on the canvas. Our exhibition shows works by Thieler from the middle of the 1950s to the middle of the 1990s. The artist died in Berlin in 1999.
Fritz Winter was born in Altenbögge in 1905 and, from 1927 onwards, took courses in art at the Bauhaus in Dessau. He too was forced to keep his work hidden from the National Socialists, for his forms of expression had been increasingly abstract since the end of the 1920s. He succeeded in continuing to work, albeit on paper, for he would then brick up his paintings in wall cavities that did not offer much space for thick canvases. Subsequently – after 1949 – many of his works were mounted on canvas. Our exhibition shows works from the beginning of the 1930s to the beginning of the 1970s – a comprehensive selection that clearly visualizes Fritz Winter’s artistic development. We are particularly pleased to be able to show a painting from his important series “Driving Forces of the Earth”. Fritz Winter died in Herrsching am Ammersee in 1976.
Karl Hartung, Fred Thieler and Fritz Winter came to know one another through their common commitment to abstraction and also, and not least, through the exhibitions of the artists’ group “ZEN 49”, which was programmatically dedicated to abstraction and
organized joint exhibitions of abstract art.