Carl Buchheister
Year, Birthplace 1890, Germany
Year, Place of death 1964, Germany
Carl Buchheister was drawn to painting and modelling from childhood. After finishing secondary school he followed his parents’ wishes and took up a commercial career in Bremen, while attending the city’s art school at night. Later, after completing his military service, he moved to Berlin, in 1913, to continue his studies of applied arts in the city’s museums. During the First World War, following a year spent with an artillery regiment in Lorraine, Buchheister managed to combine military service with artistic practice. On his return to Hanover, he struck up a friendship with Kurt Schwitters. During this period, his paintings were expressionist. His first abstract works date from 1923. From 1925, he began to produce constructivist paintings and objects. His first individual exhibition took place in 1926, at the Galerie Der Sturm in Berlin. Together with Kurt Schwitters, Rudolf Jahns, Hans Nitschke and Friedrich Vordemberge-Gildewart he founded the Die Abstrakten Hannover group in 1927. The group was not only concerned with formal matters but with the place of art: with its function and, above all, its connection with the general population. Thus Buchheister produced multiples – up to six – of his works, in order to keep their price down. In 1930, he participated in the first international exhibition in Paris of Michel Seuphor’s Cercle et Carré group. Between 1933 and 1936 he was also a member of the Parisian group Abstraction-Création, created in 1933 by Jean Hélion and Georges Vantongerloo. Carl Buchheister was not officially part of the Dessau Bauhaus, in spite of being very close to it through his relationship with Wassily Kandinsky. He was also linked to the De Stijl movement founded by Piet Mondrian and Theo van Doesburg. The influence of his friend Schwitters can be seen in the way he incorporated different objects and diverse materials into his works, revealing an approach that was freer than that of his constructivist contemporaries. From 1933 onwards, he was labelled a ‘degenerate’ artist by the Nazis, together with almost every other modern German artist. His works were removed from the walls of museums and their exhibition in galleries was prohibited. In 1937 some were even destroyed. In 1934 he returned to figuration, painting portraits and landscapes in and around the city of Hillesheim (Germany), his home since 1931. In 1939 he became a reserve officer in the army. Nonetheless, he continued to paint during the war, while posted to France. At the end of the war, after a period of captivity, he returned to abstract painting. In 1949, he became friends with the painter Karl Otto Götz. In France he was linked to the writer and critic Édouard Jaguer, the painters Pierre Alechinsky and Jacques Hérold. Between 1958 and 1963, he spent half the time in France, in Paris and Émeville. There have been various retrospective exhibitions of his work around the world. AC