Thursday, July 15, 2010

Georg Schrimpf

 Georg Schrimpf, Figures in a Landscape, c. 1925

Georg Schrimpf (1889-1938) was born in Munich. He was an autodidact, visiting an art school just for eight days. Since his childhood Georg was obsessed with drawing, painting and copying works of the great masters. His father didn’t see the artistic talent of his son and forced him, in 1902, into a bakery apprenticeship. Since 1905 Georg Schrimpf travelled for some years through Belgium, France, Switzerland and Northern Italy, working as a waiter, baker, and coal shuffler, before he settled in Munich (1909). There he developed a decorative and Expressionist style, and his first designs were published in Franz Pfemfert’s periodical Die Aktion.

Georg Schrimpf, Oskar Maria Graf, 1927

In 1913, Schrimpf first met his lifelong friend Oskar Maria Graf, also a learned baker, but later a famous novelist, who left Germany 1933. The friends visited together Italy and Switzerland, where they stayed a couple of months in an anarchist community near Ascona. Two years later, Schrimpf went to Berlin where he worked in a chocolate factory. In his free time he used every minute for drawing, painting, and wood carving. He continued to work in an Expressionist style comparable to that of Heinrich Campendonk, providing designs for influential periodicals like Der Sturm and Kunstblatt.

 Georg Schrimpf, On the Balcony, 1929

In 1916, the famous publicist and art expert Herwarth Walden exhibited some paintings and woodcarvings of Schrimpf in his gallery. At this time (and in this gallery) Schrimpf met Maria Uhden, also a painter. They married in 1917 and moved to Munich. Maria Uhden died in August 1918 as a result of the birth of their son Markus. Maria's death was to have a striking effect on Schrimpf's subsequent artistic work, which became more lyrical and precise, and which most often featured young women, for example Young Girl Seated:

Georg Schrimpf, Young Girl Seated, 1923

After the end of the First World War, Schrimpf played an active role in the short-lived Münchner Räterepublik (Bavarian Soviet Republic) and joined the KPD (Communist Party of Germany) for a couple of months. But, contrary to his leftist political views, there is no daily politics, no exciting city life, no social critque in his works, revealing a curious ambivalence of his personality. Schrimpf's work is characterized by clean outlines and tender coloring. Each image presents a tremendous silence - in direct contrast to his restless wandering life. His motives are mainly women and landscapes. He paints women in front of the mirror, women at the window, and his landscapes are deserted, pure nature.

Georg Schrimpf, Woman on a Couch, 1925

Schrimpf's painting style was influenced by his repeated visits to Italy, his admiration of Renaissance art, and his contacts with the Valori Plastici group, notably Felice Casorati. His friendship with Carlo Carrà (who in 1924 wrote a small biography about Schrimpf) confirmed this tendency towards a timeless, poetical realism, placing his post-war work within the more romantic trends of the New Objectivity.

Georg Schrimpf, Still Life with Cat, 1923

Since 1926 Schrimpf taught at the Staatliche Kunstschule in Munich. In 1933, he was appointed a professor at the Westenriede-Gewerbeschule in Berlin-Schönberg by its director, painter Alexander Kanoldt, but was dismissed in 1937 because of his "red past". For the same reason the Nazis banned his works from public exhibitions, and some of his paintings were included in the notorious 1937 Degenerate Art Exhibition in Munich. One year, 1938,  later Georg Schrimpf died in Berlin. You can see more of his works in my Flickr set.

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