Konrad Klapheck (* 10 February 1935 in Düsseldorf) is a German graphic artist and painter. Today he is considered a classic representative of the post-war avant-garde and object painting.
Konrad Peter Cornelius Klapheck was born in Düsseldorf on 10 February 1935 as the son of Richard and Anna Klapheck, both professors of art history. The events of the Second World War left their mark on the young Konrad at an early age. His father died in 1939 and his mother moved to Leipzig to live with his grandparents. There, the little boy had to watch the city being bombed and going up in flames on 4 December 1943. This experience captivated Klapheck and later became his artistic inspiration. In 1954 Konrad Klapheck began studying art at the Düsseldorf Art Academy, his teacher being Bruno Goller. In 1955, he created his first painting, which he did with a typewriter. This machine painting met with approval from Goller and Klapheck decided to pursue object art further.
Konrad Klapheck in Paris
The artist spent the winter months of 1956/57 in Paris with his future wife Lilo Lang. There he was encouraged by his painter friend Christian d’Orgeix to turn further to the motif of the machine. He also became acquainted with the artists Yves Klein, Max Ernst, and René Magritte.
After his return to Germany, his first solo exhibition took place in 1959 at the Galerie Schmela in Düsseldorf. In the same year, the New York gallery owner Georges Stümpfli bought six of Klapheck’s paintings and showed them together with works by Yves Klein and Lucio Fontana. From this point on, Konrad Klapheck shone internationally, and his works were exhibited in many renowned contemporary art galleries.
Lilo Lang and Konrad Klapheck married in 1960, the same year he received the Förderpreis zum Großen Kunstpreis des Landes NRW. It is the only award the artist accepts. Thanks to the art critic José Pierre, Klapheck became a member of the Paris Surrealist circle. In 1965, he took part in the last important Surrealist exhibition at the Galerie L’Oeil in Paris. The following year, the Kestner-Gesellschaft in Hanover presented the first retrospective in Klapheck’s favour. In 1968, the artist took part in documenta 4 in Kassel.
documenta, Düsseldorf Art Academy
The art movement of Hyperrealism (also Superrealism) gives the artist’s work a new topicality. Klapheck’s works are shown in several exhibitions devoted to this art movement. In 1976 the artist was appointed professor of free painting at the Düsseldorf Art Academy, a post he held until 2002.
The artist again took part in documenta 6 in 1977. In 1992, the artist began to turn away from the machine motifs that dominated his work and started to make portrait drawings of friends, colleagues, and personalities from the art world. He finally abandoned his main motifs of objects and machines and devoted himself to painting nudes. On July 30, 2023, Klapheck died in his hometown Düsseldorf, where he lived and worked until the end.
He often paints the subjects of machines and devices precisely, in large formats, and seemingly realistically. The ironic, sometimes alienated, titles of the works, however, suggest a surreal interpretation and iconization of what is depicted.
1954/1958 – Studied at the Düsseldorf Art Academy with Bruno Goller.
1957 – Acquaintance with Yves Klein, Max Ernst, and René Magritte.
1959 – First solo exhibition at Galerie Schmela, Düsseldorf.
1968 – Participation in the 4th documenta in Kassel.
1976/2002 – Professorship at the Düsseldorf Art Academy for free painting.
1977 – Participation in documenta 6 in Kassel.
2023 – on July 30, 2023, Konrad Klapheck dies in his hometown Düsseldorf.