Fritz Winter

Fritz Winter (* 22 September 1905 in Altenbögge near Unna; † 1 October 1976 in Herrsching am Ammersee) was a German painter. He is one of the most important artists of post-war abstract art.

Education Fritz Winters

Fritz Winter was born on 22 September 1905 near Unna. In 1919 he began a miner's apprenticeship as a mine electrician in Ahlen and graduated from the Realgymnasium (secondary school) at the same time. In 1927 he applied to the Bauhaus in Dessau and studied there until 1930 with Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky and Oskar Schlemmer, among others.
During study visits he met Naum Gabo in 1928 and visited the artist Ernst Ludwig Kirchner in Davos in 1929. His first works are exhibited in 1929 during the exhibition "Young Bauhaus Painters", which is shown in Braunschweig, Erfurt and Krefeld. After completing his studies, Winter began teaching at the Pedagogical Academy in Halle. In this year he creates his first works entitled "Abstract Still Life". The artist moved to Allach near Munich in 1933 and finally settled in Dießen am Ammersee in 1935.
After the National Socialists seized power in Germany, Winter's works were removed from public collections and he was banned from painting. At the beginning of the Second World War, Fritz Winter was drafted and sent to the Eastern Front. In 1944 he was seriously wounded. During his convalescent leave he created the series of paintings "Treibkräfte der Erde". After the end of the war, he was taken prisoner of war in Russia. It was not until 1949 that he returned to Germany. There he co-founded the artists' group "ZEN 49" in Munich.

Fritz Winter and the post-war period

He is awarded the II Prize at the Venice Biennale in 1950. In the same year, Winter made the acquaintance of Hans Hartung and Pierre Soulages. He married his long-time confidante Margarete Schreiber-Rüffer in 1953 and accepted a position as guest lecturer at the Landeskunstschule in Hamburg.
Together with Willy Baumeister and Ernst Wilhelm Nay, Fritz Winter resigned from the Deutscher Künstlerbund at short notice in 1954 because the chairman Karl Hofer was critical of abstract painting. In 1955 he accepted a professorship at the Staatliche Hochschule für Bildende Künste in Kassel, where he taught until 1970. In the same year, he takes part in the first documenta in Kassel.

The death of his wife in 1958 shook the artist deeply. In the same year, he was awarded the prize of the Brussels World Exhibition and the Art Prize of the City of Berlin. A year later he married Waltraud Schreiber, his wife's daughter from his first marriage. From 1961 onwards, he worked intensively with colour space modulations. On the occasion of his 60th birthday in 1965 and 1966, the artist is honoured as one of the most important post-war artists in Germany with major retrospectives in Kassel, Koblenz, Hanover, Mannheim, Düsseldorf, Stuttgart and Berlin. In 1969 he was awarded the Federal Cross of Merit.

In 1974 his second wife died. In the meantime, the artist lives in seclusion in Dießen. He bequeathed a large number of paintings to the Galerieverein in Munich, which later became the Fritz Winter Foundation.

Fritz Winter died in Herrsching am Ammersee on 1 October 1976.

Die Windgräser (der Brautstrauß), 1961, Oil on canvas, 135 × 170 cm

Rot-Schwarz-Blau vertikal, 1967, Oil on canvas, 171 × 135 cm

o. T., 1950, oil on canvas, 50 × 60 cm

o. T., 1931, collage, 18,5 × 19,5 cm

Blau geöffnet, 1968, oil on canvas, 145 × 135 cm


Born on 22 September in Altenbögge near Unna.
Miner's apprenticeship as a mine electrician in Ahlen.
Studied at the Bauhaus in Dessau with Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky and Oskar Schlemmer, among others.
Meeting with Naum Gabo.
First visit to Ernst Ludwig Kirchner in Davos.
Teaches at the Pedagogical Academy, Halle. First paintings under the title "Abstract Still Life" are created.
Relocation to Allach near Munich.
Relocation to Dießen am Ammersee.
Ban on painting. His works are removed from public collections.
Soldier on the Eastern Front.
Severe wounding. During the convalescent leave, he creates the series of pictures "Treibkräfte der Erde" ("Earth's Driving Forces").
Prisoner of war in Russia.
Co-founder of the artist group "ZEN 49" in Munich.
II Prize at the Venice Biennale. Acquaintance with Hans Hartung and Pierre Soulages. Formal calming in his works, he paints the "Bandzeichenbilder".
Guest lecturer at the Landeskunstschule Hamburg. Marriage to Margarete Schreiber-Rüffer.
Short-term withdrawal (together with Willi Baumeister) from the Deutscher Künstlerbund, due to the "suppression of the abstract".
Professorship at the State University of Fine Arts, Kassel.
Participation in the documenta, Kassel.
Death of the first wife Margarete. Prize at the Brussels World's Fair. Art Prize of the City of Berlin.
Marriage to Waltraud Schreiber. Participation in documenta II, Kassel.
The colour space modulations are created.
Participation in documenta III, Kassel.
Award of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany.
Death of his second wife Waltraud. Winter donates a large number of paintings to the Galerieverein München, now the Fritz Winter Foundation, Munich.
On 1 October he dies in Herrsching am Ammersee.

Artist groups


Informal art, in short Informel, developed in France as a counter-movement to geometric abstraction. It was given its name by Michel Tapié, who curated the exhibition "Signifiants de l'Informel" at Studio Facchetti in Paris in 1951. Overall, the movement is characterised by an urge for freedom - this is evident in the composition of the pictures as well as in the free use of materials. Within the style, various currents distinguish themselves, including Tachism, Art Brut and Lyrical Abstraction, which originated in France. There are various overlaps between the different styles, and parallels can also be found with Abstract Expressionism, which developed in America. French pioneers of Informel are Jean Fautrier, Wols (Alfred Otto Wolfgang Schulze), Jean Dubuffet and the Paris-based Hans Hartung. In addition to the artist groups "Quadriga", "ZERO", "Gruppe 53" and "ZEN 49", important representatives are the artists Karl Otto Götz, Maria Lassnig, Peter Brüning, Emil Schumacher, Hann Trier, Walter Stöhrer and Fritz Winter.

New Group

The "Neue Gruppe" was formed in Munich shortly after the Second World War in 1946/47. Artists from the "Neue Secession", whose art was considered "degenerate" by the National Socialists and was banned, joined forces to make a new start. Among them were Max Beckmann, Willi Baumeister, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, Lothar Fischer, Erich Heckel, Max Kaus, Horst Antes, Konrad Klapheck, Ernst Wilhelm Nay, Max Pechstein and Fritz Winter. After the experiences of the preceding dictatorship, they declared a free, tolerant approach in all areas of the visual arts to be their primary goal. The association still exists today as the "Artists' Association Haus der Kunst Munich" after the "Neue Gruppe", "Münchner Sezession" and the "Neue Münchner Künstlergenossenschaft" jointly founded the "Exhibition Administration Haus der Kunst Munich".

ZEN 49

In 1949, the "Gruppe der Ungegenständlichen" (Group of Non-Figurative Artists) was founded in Munich, consisting of Willi Baumeister, Fritz Winter, Rolf Cavael, Gerhard Fietz, Rupprecht Geiger, Willi Hempel and Brigitte Meier-Denninghoff. A year later, the name changes to "ZEN 49", in reference to Zen Buddhism, which inspires many of their works. The focus on non-objective painting shows a turn towards artistic freedom and openness of interpretation. Abstract art should not only be perceived, but also understood. Together with other artists, especially representatives of Informel, exhibitions are conceived and the international exchange with like-minded people is promoted.