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Tübke Werner

Tübke Werner(19292004)

Werner Tübke is undoubtedly one of the most significant, yet also controversial painters at the close of the artistically fast-paced 20th century which witnessed the traditional task of art as a transmitter of values turn into an implosion of empty forms. Working in isolation, Tübke persevered in following the style of the old masters, who alone set a standard for him. Thus, his immense artistic work seems confusingly multi-layered and complex, a result of the polar tensions between ideals and a reality experienced as problematic, between observations of reality and an irrational impulse, between ones own inaccessible inner life and the reflexions of the external world. An extremely precarious universe, logically historicized, yet just as artistically arranged, manifests itself in his work and seamlessly connects the great world theatre in its centre with utterly private, intimate fantasies.

A welthaftigkeit, or worldliness, the product of thinking expansively in terms of centuries and of continually engaging the very few truly existential topics in world and art history, is an essential characteristic of his art, which, despite the mysteriousness and bizarre hieroglyphics of invention, by no means excludes an intellectual, sensitive playfulness with forms and ideas. Living outside the endless renewal of the modern age, but equally unimpressed by the political expectations that his contractor, the state, placed on art, he founded a genuinely autonomous, ambivalent metaphorical mannerism rooted in the entire transformative wealth of the Western Christian visual tradition. Meanwhile, this >Italy in the early 1970s, but which in Germany is at times still seriously underestimated. In retrospect, the genesis of his unique, opulent lifes work nonetheless appears as given as a law of nature and filled with a secret inner logic. Werner Tübke found the visual materials that interested him in global social conflicts (Five Continents, 1958), in the History of the German Workers Movement (1961), in topics such as neo-fascism (Memoirs of Doctor of Laws Schulze, 1965-67) and National Committee of Free Germany (1969/70), as well as in dramatized beach scenes (1967-71) and Italian motifs (1971-75). Among his major works are large-format multiple panels and panoramas, such as the great social utopia in which all differences vanish (Working Class and Intellectuals, 1970-73); the vision of the ultimate triumph of humanism in Man Measure of All Things (1975); and, of course, the universal historical panorama depicting the radical transformation from the late Middle Ages to the modern age (1976-87), which became both a pandemonium of human passions in a newborn century and a complex mirror of peculiar states of mind; further, the Bonn stage set designs for Webers Der Freischütz (1990-93), an intimate landscape of the soul that sweeps from a lyrical contemplation of nature to a demonic phantasmagoria; and finally, as the crowning fulfilment of his work, the large winged altar for St. Salvatoris Church in Clausthal-Zellerfeld (1993-96), an opus of reconciliation and inner peace that appears highly spiritual and distanced. In addition to these works are very private subjects, harlequinades for instance, individual figures and portraits.

Despite the continuity in this succession, there is a conspicuous trend away from approaches heavily weighted with contemporary politics towards a more timeless and generalised symbolism, a change step that shifts from a priori social-historical references to reality over to visionary utopias and a highly subjective inwardness, which is exactly what so lastingly defines his most recent paintings. Indeed, starting from his quite private side productions to his epochal Frankenhausen historical panorama of the eternal recurrence of rise and decline, Tübkes visual worlds have long been translated into a remote Arcadia, a lost paradise of fateful entanglements, nervous tensions, and tragedy full of irony and shorn of innocence. For the sake of its atonement, the painter celebrates his world theatre in absurd rituals and strange, dreamlike, even trancelike, hallucinatory ceremonies, a mysterious, morbidly attractive alchemist play between existential states of mind, whose protagonists are mainly broken existences, problematic figures weighed with a heavy fate, costumed appearances, the homeless, beggars and others who have come too short in life, as well as harlequins, jugglers, commedia-dellarte figures and fools. The artist himself even appears frequently in his work as a tightrope walker, juggler, and harlequin.

Werner Tübke died on 27 May 2004 in Leipzig.

Werner Tübkes œuvre to date includes around 6,000 drawings, nearly 500 water colours, 340 paintings (oil, tempera, mixed media) and more than 220 graphic prints (mostly lithographs, but also etchings and woodcuts, the latter from his early period).
In his creative work, the human figure dominates (historical and contemporary depictions, portraits, nudes, symbols, harlequinade, Christian motifs, the mythological); his landscapes are done primarily in watercolour. Werner Tübke has been honoured with numerous prizes and awards, among them: 1971 Leipzig Art Prize; 1972 Gold Medal at the Graphic Art Biennale in Florence; 1977 the main prize in painting at the 2nd Triennal of Art from Socialist Countries in Sofia; 1980 Käthe-Kollwitz Prize from the Academy of Arts in the GDR; 1982 member of the Swedish Royal Academy of Arts in Stockholm; 1983 member of the Academy of Arts in the GDR /in Berlin (1992 resignation), 1988 honourary member of the Academy of Arts in the USSR, 1989 honourary member of the Serbian Academy for Art and Science in Belgrad (1992 resignation). More than 100 solo exhibitions of the artist have been displayed to date in Germany, Austria, Sweden, Italy, France, the Netherlands, Russia and the USA. In addition, countless other exhibitions in Europe, Australia und the USA include his works. Works from Werner Tübke can be found in many important museums and collections in Europe and overseas.

DDR, 1989, Fontain of Life


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