Plan your visit
  • From: 14 october 2017
  • Through: 07 january 2018
  • Location: Museum de Fundatie


A major retrospective of Wolfgang Mattheuer (1927-2004) will open at De Fundatie on 14 October 2017. Along with Werner Tübke and Bernhard Heisig, Mattheuer was one of the founders of the Leipziger Schule, artists who transformed the realism of art in the GDR with their ambiguous, metaphoric paintings. This will be the first retrospective of this artist’s work to be staged outside Germany.

Wolfgang Mattheuer, 'Drinnen, Draußen und Ich', 1986, oil on canvas, 200 x 200 cm. Staatliche Museen Berlin, Nationalgalerie (on loan from private collector).

The exhibition, which will bring together more than 80 of Wolfgang Mattheuer’s most important paintings, is being organised in close collaboration with Kunsthalle Rostock and Galerie Schwind (Leipzig, Berlin and Frankfurt). It will include items on loan from Nationalgalerie in Berlin, Städel Museum in Frankfurt, Hamburger Kunsthalle, Mumok in Vienna, Ludwig Museum in Budapest and private collectors.

Afbeelding: Wolfgang Mattheuer, Achter de 7 x 7 Bergen, 1993, olieverf op doek op hout, 200 x 170 cm. Sammlung Fritz P. Mayer Leipzig, Frankfurt am Main.
Wolfgang Mattheuer, 'Achter de 7 x 7 Bergen', 1993, oil on canvas on wood, 200 x 170 cm. Sammlung Fritz P. Mayer Leipzig, Frankfurt am Main.

Wolfgang Mattheuer was born in Reichenbach in Vogtland (Saxony) in 1927. He studied at the Leipziger Hochschule für Grafik und Buchkunst from 1947 to 1951, later returning there as a professor from 1965 to 1974. He then turned his attention exclusively to his own art. Landscapes depicted in bird’s-eye view often provide the basis for his compositions. They give an impression of the surroundings of Leipzig and the Vogtland region, and their broad expanse also represents a larger, ‘worldly’ landscape, in which he paints surreal, sometimes floating figures.

The use of parable and metaphor is a typical feature of Wolfgang Mattheuer’s work. Drawing on the bible, Greek mythology and German literature, he poses veiled questions about the state of society in his country. In his figurative work he combines, reworks and compresses the motifs to convey his critical ideas without ever making them explicit. In this way, he raises questions about the relationship between the individual and society, nature and its subjugation to technology (Ein weites Feld), and freedom and its failings (Hinter den 7x7 Bergen).

Wolfgang Mattheuer

Mattheuer held an important position in the GDR regime, receiving state prizes and official honours. Nevertheless, he left the SED (Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands) in 1988 and in 1989 took part in the Montagsdemonstrationen in Leipzig, which contributed to the fall of the GDR.

His important bronze statue Jahrhundertschritt, 1984 will also be on display in Zwolle. In this work, Mattheuer reflects on East Germany’s troubled 20th century, first under National Socialism and then Communism, with Hitler salutes, clenched fists and army boots as emblems. The foot striding forward is bare and vulnerable: what does the future hold for Germany? An example of this extraordinarily powerful and polarising image has stood in the centre of a shopping street in Leipzig since 1999, having been installed in the presence of then Chancellor Gerhard Schröder. One of the few places in Germany where a Hitler salute can be seen in a public space.

The Wolfgang Mattheuer retrospective follows on from Werner Tübke – Master Painter between East and West, which drew 85,000 visitors to Museum de Fundatie.

To coincide with the exhibition, a Dutch-language catalogue will be published by Waanders & de Kunst, along with a German-language catalogue raisonné of the paintings of Wolfgang Mattheuer. 

  • From: 14 Oct 2017
  • Through: 07 Jan 2018
  • Location: Museum de Fundatie