Markus Lüpertz: Leda, 2019

The sometimes monumental sculptures of painter, sculptor and poet Professor Markus Lüpertz can be found in numerous squares and buildings across Germany. Born in Reichenberg and raised in Rheydt, he became a protagonist of a new figurative style of painting with expressive features in West Berlin in the 1960s. After professorships in Karlsruhe and Düsseldorf, he left his mark on the Kunstakademie in the state capital of North Rhine-Westphalia when he held the post of rector for 21 years.

His style is characterized by a powerful visual language and a tendency towards the monumental. He touches on taboos in his art and opposes a clear and comprehensible ideal of beauty. His exploration of ancient myths and his preoccupation with European cultural history is reflected in many of his works. At the same time, his works often surprise the viewer with their provocative radicalism, which, not infrequently, trigger public controversy.

Figure with goose as a mythological figure

Markus Lüpertz created the 3.6-meter-high bronze sculpture of a powerful female figure with a goose – colored like all his sculptures – for the banks of the Rhein in Monheim. The upright figure with her tilted head is being nuzzled by a goose on her left. The bird directs its beak towards the face of the female figure and it is unclear whether it is giving her a kiss or whispering something into her ear. When designing the work, the artist was inspired by two different motifs: firstly, the Gänseliesel (Goose Girl) that figures on the coat of arms of Mohneim and is part of the city logo, and, secondly, the mythological figure of Leda.

Markus Lüpertz combines both these motifs and narratives, drawing on a model by Leonardo da Vinci. Around 1500, the Italian artist created a well-known depiction of Leda, who was seduced by the Zeus, the father of all Greek gods, when he took the form of a swan. According to the mythological tale, he sired with her the beautiful Helen and her sister Clytemnestra, who both hatched from an egg.

An ancient motif

Other artists also took up the narrative and the motif in their works, with Michelangelo, for example, providing a different and often-copied design around 1530. The physical figure of Leda was repeatedly adapted to fit in with the individual taste of the artist, such as in Paul Cezanne’s version. Markus Lüpertz associates Cezanne’s paintings with the moving surface design, through which their respective artistic means become visible. In Cezanne’s case, these are the seemingly chopped-off brushstrokes; in the case of Lüpertz, the plastic material, which is flexible in the design stage and was only later translated into bronze. For stylistic reasons, in terms of artistic freedom, the figure of Leda deviates from the usual figure of the slender and rather graceful Gänseliesel, or Goose Girl; here, in contrast, she has been depicted as rather athletic. The obvious violation of expectations and ideals of beauty was already a point of contemporary criticism in Cezanne’s work, until later a deeper understanding of free artistic expression made a milder viewpoint possible.

Biography of artist Professor Markus Lüpertz

Born in Liberec (German: Reichenberg) in the Czech Republic in 1941.

1948 Relocated to Rheydt, Germany
1962 Moved to West Berlin; lived and worked in Karlsruhe and Mönchengladbach, among other places.
1956–1961 Studied at the Werkkunstschule Krefeld under Laurens Goossens
Early 1960s: study visit to Maria Laach monastery; studied at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf

Villa Romana Prize
1971 Award of the German Critics' Association
1990 Lovis Corinth Prize
2006 Honorary doctorate from the Kunstakademie Breslau/Eugeniusz Geppert Academy of Fine Arts in Wroclaw, Poland
since 2009 Full member of the North Rhine-Westphalian Academy of Sciences and Arts
2013 International Mendelssohn Prize Leipzig
2016 Honorary Citizen of Liberec/Čestný občan města Liberce, Czech Republic

Teaching work
Professor at the State Academy of Fine Arts Karlsruhe
ab 1986 Professor at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf
1988–2009 Rector of the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf

Group exhibitions (selection)
 “14 x 14,” State Art Gallery Baden-Baden
1977 “documenta 6,” Kassel
1981 “A New Spirit in Painting,” Royal Academy of Arts, London
1982 “documenta 7,” Kassel
1982 “Zeitgeist,” Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin
1983 “17th São Paulo Biennial”
1984 “von hier aus,” exhibition center, Düsseldorf
1985 “German Art in the 20th Century,” Royal Academy of Arts, London
1989 “Bilderstrei,” Museum Ludwig/Rheinhallen, Cologne
1997 “Deutschlandbilder,” Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin
2009 “Art of Two Germanys/Cold War Cultures”, The Los Angeles County Museum of Arts
2013 “Artzuid,” Amsterdam
2014 “Germany divided,” British Museum, London
2016 “Baselitz, Lüpertz, Penck, Immendorff,” Gemeentemuseum, Den Haag
2017 “Deutschland 8 – Deutsche Kunst in China”, Tai Miao Tempel/Forbidden City, Beijing

Solo exhibitions (selection)

1965 Galerie Großgörschen 35, West Berlin
1969 Galerie Hake, Cologne
1973 State Art Gallery Baden-Baden
1974 Galerie Michael Werner, Cologne
1976 Galerie Rudolf Zwirner, Cologne
1977 Hamburg Art Gallery, Hamburg
1979 Whitechapel Art Gallery, London
1979 Josef Haubrich Art Gallery, Cologne
1981 Marian Goodman Gallery, New York City
1983 Stedelijk Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven
1983 Kestner Gesellschaft, Hanover
1984 Vienna Secession, Vienna
1986 Municipal Gallery in the Lenbachhaus, Munich
1987 Museum Boijmans  -van Beuningen, Rotterdam
1991 Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid
1994 Museum of Modern Art Ludwig Foundation, Vienna
1995 Museion, Bozen
1996 Kunstverein Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf
1999 Zollverein Coal Mine Industrial Complex, Essen
2002 Museum Würth, Künzelsau
2006 BA-CA Kunstforum art museum and gallery, Vienna
2009 Art and Exhibition Hall of the Federal Republic of Germany, Bonn
2010 Art Forum East German Gallery, Regensburg
2011 Gemeentemuseum, Den Haag
2014 Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao
2014 Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg
2015 Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris
2017 Hirshhorn Museum, Washington
2019 Haus der Kunst, Munich

Selected literature

Zweite, Armin (Hg.), Markus Lüpertz. Gemälde – Skulpturen, Ostfildern-Ruit 1996, ISBN 978-3-89322-839-3
Gohr, Siegfried, Markus Lüpertz, Köln 2002, ISBN 978-3-8321-7000-4
Fleck, Robert (Hg.), Markus Lüpertz. Hauptwege und Nebenwege; eine Retrospektive, Bilder und Skulpturen von 1963 bis 2009, Köln 2009, ISBN 978-3-940953-22-3

More information

Markus Lüpertz on [extern]NRWskulptur 

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