Biography of Konrad Klapheck
Monumental, amusingly absurd and sexually suggestive are the words used by Konrad Klapheck (born Düsseldorf, 1935) to describe his work which combines elements of realism, Surrealism and Pop art. The painter and graphic artist is best known for taking everyday objects as subject matter, and rendering them in stark, objective ways. Typewriters, showers, water taps, telephones, sewing machines, irons—all are items that have featured prominently in his oeuvre.
While studying at the Kunstakademie in Düsseldorf from 1954 to 1956, Klapheck was inspired by the magical realism in the works of Dada artist Max Ernst. His interest in this style is reflected through the development of his famous renditions of typewriters; they became increasingly large in size, and the form, the color palettes and treatment of light of these various models of typewriters, are highly reminiscent of Ernst’s work. It is due to this repetitive, cartoonlike treatment of subjects, a sort of magnification of trivial objects that Klapheck has been considered a Pop artist.
Also inspiring to Klapheck were the artworks and artists he encountered in Paris—particularly Marcel Duchamp’s Anémic Cinéma (a 1926 surrealist, experimental film) and André Breton’s insistence on Klapheck participating in meetings with circles of Paris Surrealists. From 1970, Klapheck focused on his etchings at the Atelier Hartmut Frielinghaus in Hamburg. He began engraving plates that became works of art in themselves, and were exhibited by the gallerist Rudolf Zwirner in Cologne in 1977. These etchings that were produced in large editions make up a significant part of Klapheck’s existing body of work, and today sell for thousands in auction houses worldwide. In the late 90’s Klapheck dedicated himself to portraiture and figure painting—painting colleagues, friends, celebrities from the art world, as well as nudes. The artist is admired not only for his facility to move between oil on canvas to etchings to various other forms of print making, but also for his wide ranges of subject matter, always depicted with a characterizing irony, and a psychological and sexual charge.
Over the course of his career Klapheck has participated in exhibitions in the U.S. and all over Europe. One of his first major retrospectives was held at the Boijmans van Beuningen in Rotterdam in 1974. Klapheck has since had retrospectives throughout Germany, in institutions such as the Hamburg Kunsthalle, the Kunsthalle Tübingen, and the Staatsgalerie moderner Kunst, Munich, with his latest, Klapheck Paintings and Drawings, being held at the Kunstpalast in Düsseldorf in 2013. In 1994, Klapheck travelled to Beijing, China to lecture at the Central Institute of Fine Arts. In 2009 Klapheck was commissioned to design the official poster for Roland Garros, the French Open tennis tournament.