Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Peter August Böckstiegel

 Peter August Böckstiegel,Self-Portrait, 1913

Peter August Böckstiegel (1889-1951) was born in Arrode, a village near Bielefeld in Westphalia, into a family of small farmers. He alreday showed artistic talent at an early age. In 1903 he began an apprenticeship as a painter and glazer passing his examinations in 1907. That same year saw the establishment of a school for crafts and decorative arts in Bielefeld, where Böckstiegel studied under Ludwig Godewols until 1913. In 1913 Böckstiegel began to study at the Royal Saxon Academy of Art in Dresden under Oskar Zwintscher and Otto Gussmann. In Dresden Böckstiegel befriended Conrad Felixmüller, whose portrait he painted twice in 1914.  


 Peter August Böckstiegel, Portrait of Conrad Felixmüller, 1914

At the beginning of 1915, Böckstiegel was drafted for military service and completed the picture Farewell, which shows him and his fiancée Hanna - Conrad Felixmüller's sister - whom he married in July 1919. Between 1916 and 1918 he was employed in Russia, Romania and Ukraine, but did not show any enthusiasm for the war. While serving in the army, Böckstiegel had the possibility to continue his artistic work, and he produced numerous expressive watercolours.


Peter August Böckstiegel, Farewell, 1915

During the war Böckstiegel frequently corresponded with Felixmüller, who by then had become active in numerous art projects with leftist political intentions. His return to Dresden in March 1919 relieved him of the nightmarish burden the war had become for him. Böckstiegel, together with Felixmüller, joined the group of artists known as Dresden Secession, but left it one year later. Politically moderate, Böckstiegel joined the Social Democratic Party whereas most of his painter friends sympathised with the Communists.


Peter August Böckstiegel, Departure of the Youngsters for War, 1914

Böckstiegel lived in Westphalia during the summer and spent the winters in Dresden. His choice of motifs was by now concentrated on his immediate surroundings. In the early 1920s Böckstiegel began to approach the working class with his art. Since there was not yet a museum in Bielefeld, he transported his paintings by handcart to factories, where he explained them to the workers.


Peter August Böckstiegel, The Word, 1920

In 1934 Böckstiegel was forced to become a member of the "Reich Chamber of Fine Art". The National Socialists were first ambivalent in their appraisal of Böckstiegel's work. On the one hand, he was not permitted to exhibit in Berlin, on the other, he received a couple of official commissions. Finally, in 1937, his work was officially declared as "degenerate" and more than hundred of his paintings were either sold abroad or burnt in the coutyard of the Berlin Fire Department. 


 Peter August Böckstiegel, Hanna [the artist's wife], 1927

Böckstiegel's studio was destroyed during the bombing of Dresden in February 1945. After the destruction of the city, Böckstiegel moved permanently to Arrode, where he became the first chairman of the "Westphalian Secession 1945". The first comprehensive retrospective of his work was shown between June and August 1950 at the Dresden State Art Collections. Peter August Böckstiegel died at his family home in Arrode on March 22nd, 1951. There is an excellent webpage by the "Friends of Peter August Böckstiegel" where you can see many more of his works.

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