Markus Lüpertz: Threads of History

Exhibition Website

May 24 2017 - Sep 10 2017

The Hirshhorn will celebrate the pioneering early works of Markus Lüpertz (b. Liberec, Czech Republic, 1941), one of the most influential contemporary German artists, with an in-depth exploration of his groundbreaking paintings from the 1960s and 1970s.

Lüpertz is internationally recognized as a leading figure in Neo-Expressionism, a movement that emerged as a major force in the late 1970s and 1980s. Markus Lüpertz: Threads of History focuses on the early years of the artist’s mature practice, reflecting his unique reconsideration of painting through the lenses of Abstract Expressionism, Pop art, and, more broadly, German postwar culture. Lüpertz, like many artists who came of age in the shadow of World War II, grappled with how he should engage with this recent past and, in particular, what he should paint. The artworks from this seminal period reveal how Lüpertz deftly challenged the limits of painting as he struggled to reconcile the weight of history with his desire to be what he has described as “a painter without responsibilities.”

Featuring large-scale works—such as the 40-foot long Westwall (Siegfried Line), on view for the first time in the US—this exhibition brings more than thirty paintings to the National Mall in a striking exploration of one artist’s response to a uniquely charged cultural moment.

Markus Lupertz: Threads of History coincides with The Phillips Collection’s exhibition Markus Lupertz (May 27–September 3), which spans the artist’s entire career. Together, the two presentations form Lupertz’s first major US museum retrospective.

Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website.

Whether or not you go, Markus Lüpertz explores Lüpertz's visionary beginnings in the '60s up to the present day. Published in conjunction with the first extensive presentation of Markus Lüpertz's work in the United States. Having worked as an artist for more than sixty years, Markus Lüpertz has achieved the highest recognition internationally as a result of the suggestive power and archaic monumentality of his painting style. The prince among painters is today among the most outstanding artists of the present. As a young painter in the 1960s, he already stood apart from the crowd, countering the tendencies of Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art with simple figurative motifs. It was at this this time that he invented 'dithyrambic painting', in which figurative contents merge with one another in an expressive manner. 

In addition to this intensive relationship between figuration and abstraction, German history also plays a central role in Lüpertz's early work. Using symbolic German motifs such as, for instance, steel helmets, he found his way to a very personal iconography. Then followed phases of 'style painting,' which liberates itself from tangible contents, 'mythological painting', and landscape painting. A richly illustrated volume that spans a wide arc from the visionary beginnings to the most recent works of this unique artist, is published in conjunction with the first extensive presentation of Markus Lüpertz's work in the United States.

Markus Lüpertz

  • Painting
  • European
  • 20th Century
  • Markus Lüpertz

Exhibition Venues & Dates