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Graubner was born in 1930 in Erlbach (Saxony, Germany). From 1947 to 1948 he studied at the Academy of Arts, Berlin, and from 1948 to 1949 at the Academy of Arts, Dresden, where he was a student of Wilhelm Rudolph. When his professor had to leave the Dresden academy for ideological reasons, Graubner was on his side and therefore exmatriculated. In 1954 he left East Germany.
In 1959, Graubner left the academy. Shortly before leaving it, he came into contact with Otto Piene and Heinz Mack, the founders of the Zero group, For some years, Graubner worked, with Mack, as an art teacher at the Lessing Gymnasium, Düsseldorf.
In 1965 he was appointed at the Academy of Fine Arts, Hamburg, where he became Professor of Painting in 1969. From 1976 to 1992 he hold a professorship at the Academy of Fine Arts, Düsseldorf. Among his many Düsseldorf students were Chen Ruo Bing, Mechthild Hagemann, Doris Helbling, Jana Vizjak, Hans-Willi Notthoff, Georg Schmidt, Jens Stittgen, Stoya, Martin Streit, Peter Thol, Ulrich Moskopp, Albert Maria Pümpel, Ingo Ronkholz, Ansgar Skibba and Carl Emanuel Wolff
Artistic style: colored cushions and color-space bodies
Graubner's art is characterised by his unique philosophy and the use of color in his work. He began developing his own style in 1959, while he studied under K.O. Götz. Before that, Graubner's work had been characterised by using color sparingly, in shapes and on the edges of the canvas, but, from 1955 onwards, he had already experimented with different approaches towards color, at first with watercolor and later on canvas. Instead of focusing on shapes, he began to use color lavishly.
About 1960, the artist produced flat panel paintings with surfaces built up of differentiated nebulous color formations, the application of color in layers of varying degrees of transparency opening up the picture surface, producing a color formation of indefinite depth comparable to the paintings of Mark Rothko.
In the 1960s, Graubner mounted picture-size colored cushions onto his paintings and used Perlon fabric in an attempt to enhance the spatial effect of color surfaces. These works were displayed in Alfred Schmela's gallery in Düsseldorf.
Between 1968 and 1972 he did what he called "Nebelräume" ["Fog Spaces"].
Graubner never allowed his style to be dictated by the current fashions or trends. He developed his own style of using color as the medium through which his work announced itself, allowing it to work independently of any connection to any kind of representation or theme. According to Helga Meister, his works have sensibility, feeling and meditative force. However, his paintings are only at first glance monochrome; as a closer look reveals, they are in fact polychrome. They "breathe"; they live; their colors, even though fixed on canvas, have movement that stirs the imagination as much as his "fog-spaces" of the sixties, in which he continued the romantic tradition of Caspar David Friedrich. Moreover, his "color-space bodies" ("Farbraumkörper") have been described by art historian Max Imdahl as "picture-objects" in which "color-space and body, intangible vision and tangible facticity cooperate in a special interrelationship."
Berke Inel considers Graubner's "original use of the color-light-space triad" as the "unique aspect" of his work: "The artist presents color to the audience as though it were a landscape," and he always pays attention to detail. "While he does not use specific shapes, he uses color shades and the warm-cold balances and contrasts very well." His artworks have "no specific topic and theory" and represent "a research into color and a 'tone in tone' approach."
Graubner's works include Kissenbilder (Cushion Pictures; ca. 1960s), Erster Nebelraum - Hommage à Caspar David Friedrich (1968) and further Fog Spaces ("Nebelräume", 1969-1971, 2006-2007). In 1988, Graubner was commissioned to create two large cushion pictures for the Schloss Bellevue in Berlin.
Gotthard Graubner was awarded the August Macke Prize of the city of Meschede in 1987 and the North German Art Prize in 1988. In 2001, he was awarded the Otto Ritschl Prize that honours a life's work in colour painting.
Ernst-Gerhard Güse, ed., Gotthard Graubner: Malerei, exhibition catalog, Saarland Museum, Saarbrücken, 14 May - 16 July 1995.
Gotthard Graubner: Träger des Otto Ritschl Preises 2001 - Gotthard Graubner: Recipient of the Otto Ritschl Prize 2001, exh. cat. Museum Wiesbaden (Düsseldorf: Richter Verlag, 2001).
Veit Görner and Caroline Sommer, eds., Gotthard Graubner: Farblicht, exhibition catalog, Kestnergesellschaft, Hanover, 16 May - 3 August 2003.
Uwe Wieczorek, ed., Gotthard Graubner: Malerei - Painting, exhibition catalog, Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein, 4 February - 25 April 2010.
Erich Franz, Gotthard Graubner: Zeichnungen - Drawings, Düsseldorf, 2011.
Gotthard Graubner: Magier der Farbe, exhibition catalog, Akademie-Galerie, Die Neue Sammlung, Düsseldorf, 27 September 2013 - 26 January 2014.
Richard Hoppe-Sailer, "Farbe - Fläche - Körper - Raum: Gotthard Graubners Gemälde im Dialog mit der Hildesheimer Bernwardtür", in Michael Brandt and Gerd Winner, eds., übergänge | transitions: Gotthard Graubner - Bernwardtür - Qiu Shihua, Hildesheim, 2014, pp. 6-15.
^Gisela Hossmann, "Gotthard Graubner (geb. 1930), Schwarze Haut (1969)", in Wibke von Bonin, ed., 100 Meisterwerke aus den großen Museen der Welt, Volume 4 (Cologne: vgs verlagsgesellschaft, 1988), pp. 162-68.
^Kultur Chronik, Volume 18 (Inter Nationes, 2000), p. 4.
^Siegmar Holsten, "Graubner, Gotthard", AKL, 61 (Munich and Leipzig: K.G. Saur, 2009), p. 3.
^Inge Herold, "Meistermann, Georg", AKL, vol. 88, Berlin and Boston, 2016, p. 535.
^Jutta Held, "HAP Grieshaber und Georg Meistermann an der Karlsruher Akademie der Bildenden Künste." In Kunst und Architektur in Karlsruhe. Festschrift für Norbert Schneider (Universitätsverlag Karlsruhe, 2006), pp. 129-142.
^"An der Kunstakademie in Düsseldorf studiert er [Gonschior] von 1957 bis 1961 in der Malklasse von Karl Otto Götz zusammen mit Gotthard Graubner und HA Schult." See Museumsplattform NRW: Kuno Gonschior.