A.R. Penck, “Traudel” (1976) – In Focus for Art Basel Online






A.R. Penck (1939-2018) painted “Traudel” in 1976, the year his longtime partner Waltraud, a professional ballet dancer, died. Having met her in the mid-sixties, she would become a muse of the artist. Waltraud’s death had a great impact on A.R. Penck and was one of the reasons he considered emigrating to the West since his life as an artist was already at a difficult juncture.

Since the early sixties, the East German government was controlling A.R. Penck’s artistic output by barring him from showing his work publicly. And realizing that A.R. Penck was an alias frequently used by the artist, whose real name was Ralf Winkler, the STASI became aware of his increasing presence in the West, which led to further observation and limitation of his social circle at home in Dresden. After years of trying, A.R. Penck emigrated from East to West Berlin in 1980.

Henri Matisse, "Nu bleu II (Blue Nude II)", 1952 Gouache on paper, cut and pasted on paper, mounted on canvas, 116 x 89 cm Centre Pompidou, Paris
Henri Matisse, “Nu bleu II (Blue Nude II)”, 1952 Gouache on paper, cut and pasted on paper, mounted on canvas, 116 x 89 cm Centre Pompidou, Paris

The palette of bright blues against the white cloth and the figure’s recumbent pose recalls Matisse’s famous Nu bleu lithograph series from 1952, which could further be seen as a nod to Waltraud’s profession as a dancer and her suffering from a fatal illness, which Matisse was facing at the time he created this late work.

Like a mother, she guards two small children playing with a toy plane, while in the background we can see a plane in approach heading towards them, possibly a reference to a bombing raid. Dresden, the artist’s hometown, was heavily bombed in February of 1945 shortly before the end of the war, when A.R. Penck was just six years old.

The difference in scale of the figures suggests a moment in the past: a childhood memory of loss and destruction, while at the same time showing kids innocently playing war, perhaps unwittingly emulating that bygone reality of the artist’s childhood. “Traudel” in repose, with her finger pointing at the event, becomes a gatekeeper of the past as well as a manifestation of the present, a synonym for mother nature and the cycle of life. It is arguably one of the most personal paintings by the artist depicting human vulnerability, and a poetic testament to his love.

The artist in front of “Traudel”, ca. 1976-1980, East Germany

“Traudel” is currently on view at Kunstmuseum Den Haag in the retrospective How It Works, which remains on view through 27 September.

Installation views: A.R. Penck: How It Works, Kunstmuseum Den Haag.

“Traudel” is a new addition to The Human Figure, an online exhibition. Highlights from The Human Figure can be viewed in our Art Basel room through 26 June. An expanded exhibition is currently on view at michaelwerner.com. Follow the gallery on InstagramTwitterFacebook and Wechat.

Share this


Toscana (2022). Romantic Movie on Netflix

Toscana is the new romantic drama released on Netflix. It's directed by Mehdi Avaz. Starring Cristiana Dell'Anna and Ghita Nørby. Plot When a Danish chef travels...

A Perfect Pairing (2022). Romantic Comedy on Netflix

A Perfect Pairing is a 2022 Netflix romantic comedy starring Victoria Justice and Adam Demos. It's directed by Stuart McDonald. Plot It follows a hard-driving LA...

Katt Williams: World War III. Special Stand-Up Comedy en Netflix

Katt Williams: World War III is a special Stand-Up comedy released on Netflix starring the comedian, actor and rapper Katt Williams. Plot It follows Katt Williams...

Recent articles

More like this

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments