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Neo Rauch

 (born 1960)
Neo Rauch is active/lives in Germany.  Neo Rauch is known for surreal, fantasy, narrative painting.

Neo Rauch

Biography from the Archives of askART

Biography photo for Neo Rauch
Neo Rauch (born 18 April 1960, in Leipzig, East Germany) is a German artist whose paintings mine the intersection of his personal history with the politics of industrial alienation. His work reflects the influence of socialist realism*, and owes a debt to Surrealists* Giorgio de Chirico and René Magritte, although Rauch hesitates to align himself with surrealism. He studied at the Hochschule für Grafik und Buchkunst in Leipzig, and he lives in Markkleeberg near Leipzig, Germany and works as the principal artist of the New Leipzig School. 

Rauch's paintings suggest a narrative intent but, as art historian Charlotte Mullins explains, closer scrutiny immediately presents the viewer with enigmas: "Architectural elements peter out; men in uniform from throughout history intimidate men and women from other centuries; great struggles occur but their reason is never apparent; styles change at a whim."

Rauch's parents died in a train accident when he was four weeks old.  He grew up with his grandparents in Aschersleben and passed his exam at the Thomas-Müntzer-Oberschule (now Gymnasium Stephaneum).  Rauch studied painting at the Hochschule für Grafik und Buchkunst Leipzig (Leipzig Academy of Visual Arts).  He then was Masterstudent with Professor Arno Rink (1981-1986) and with Professor Bernhard Heisig (1986-1990).  After the fall of the GDR Rauch worked from 1993 to 1998 as an assistant to Arno Rink and Sighard Gille at the Leipziger Akademie.

From August 2005 until February 2009, he was Professor at the Leipziger Hochschule für Grafik und Buchkunst.  Together with Timm Rautert he was curator for the exhibit "Man muss sich beeilen, wenn man noch etwas sehen will..." ("One has to hurry, if one still wants to see something...") at Gut Selikum in Neuss.

Rauch works with his spouse and artist Rosa Loy at a former cotton-mill, Leipziger Baumwollspinnerei, about which he says: "It is the location of concentration and inspiration. Here the best ideas come to me."

In painting "Characteristic, suggestion and eternity" are important marks of quality. . . .
"I view the process of painting as an extraordinarily natural form of discovering the world, almost natural as breathing.  Outwardly it is almost entirely without intention.  It is predominantly limited to the process of a concentrated flow.  I am deliberately neglecting to contemplate all of the catalytic influences that would have the power to undermine the innocence of this approach because I would like to express a degree of clarity in these lines by way of example.  I view myself as a kind of peristaltic filtration system in the river of time."

Rauch is considered to be part of the New Leipzig School*, and his works are characterized by a style that depends on the Social Realism of communism.  Especially American critics prefer to recognize in his contemporary style a post-communist Surrealism.  But more than anyone Rauch is recognized as an East-West painter.  Rauch merges the modern myths of both the Warsaw Pact and the Western world.  His figures are portrayed in a landscape in which an American Comic-Aestheticism meets the Social Realism of communism.  In the art publication, Texte zur Kunst, (Texts about Art, number 55) he was defined as an example for a new German neo-conservatism.

One of his promoters, Roberta Smith (journalist for The New York Times), caused great enthusiasm in the US for Rauch's works with an article about the "painter, who came from the cold." Rauch's works are in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City and have been shown in numerous solo exhibitions, including one at the Wiener Albertina.

Rauch won the Vincent Award in 2002.  His work was featured at the 2005 Carnegie International in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and he had his first solo North American museum exhibition at the Saint Louis Art Museum in St. Louis, Missouri in 2003-2004.

His first Canadian exhibit was held at the Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal in 2006.  In 2007 Rauch painted a series of works especially for a solo exhibition in the mezzanine of the modern art wing at the Metropolitan Museum in New York City. This special exhibition was called "Para."  Rauch explains that he enjoys the associations the word "para" evokes in his own mind, and says that his works at "Para" have no particular intention, but that they could signify anything to anyone.
When I first agreed to do the Met exhibition, I thought about a way of working that would be about the nature of a museum.  But straight away I realized that I was much more interested in those "visions from the Witches Circle" in my studio than I was in coming up with things in a purely thematic way. Calling them "visions" reflects my personality—they precede inspiration and spring from the moment when internal images appear at the prompting of intellectual decisions. I have no choice but to accept everything that I discover in this way.

Works for "Para":
    •    Jagdzimmer (Hunter's room), 2007
    •    Vater (Father), 2007
    •    Die Fuge (The Fugue/The Gap), 2007
    •    Warten auf die Barbaren (Waiting for the Barbarians), 2007
    •    Para, 2007
    •    Paranoia, 2007
    •    Goldgrube (Gold Mine), 2007
    •    Vorort (Suburb), 2007
    •    Der nächste Zug (The Next Move/The Next Draw), 2007
    •    Die Flamme (The Flame), 2007

The works created for "Para" are characterized by three elements: a pre-communist civic-mindedness, communist Social Realism and an idealized countryside.  On the other hand it's a prefix which evokes associations like para-normal, para-dox or para-noia.?It may be read in a system connection, for example a picture like Paranoia reflects the cognitions theory in a hermetic room.

Leipzig, Rauch's city of birth, is known historically as a city of trade through its association with the Leipzig Trade Fair.  This civic-mindedness of a trader's city also expressed itself under communism where Leipzig was the center of popular resistance that led to Die Wende. Rauch uses characters and images of life of pre-communist civil society that was oppressed by communism in the GDR.  The oppression of communism and the total control of civic life under the rule of communist ideology is one of the elements of Rauch's work.  The destructive powers of ideologies is perhaps the reason why Rauch refuses to interpret his own work as a powerful statement in favor of a cultural relativism that characterized the civic bourgeois thought that was destroyed.

In 2007, the Galerie Rudolfinum in Prague held a retrospective entitled "Neue Rollen," rganized by the Kunstmuseum, Wolfsburg, of Rauch's works covering 13 years.


* For more in-depth information about these terms and others, see Glossary

Biography from the Archives of askART
Biography photo for Neo Rauch
Following is text for Rauch's entry in the 2005 Carnegie International Exhibition*:

Neo Rauch's curious and curiously beautiful paintings present a world populated by hybrid animals and hypertrophied humans.  His harsh, industrial colors and heroic, 1950s-looking workmen and sturdy women, depicted with almost cartoonish realism, are elements Rauch has retained from the Socialist Realist* aesthetic of communist East Germany, where he grew up and received his artistic training.

However much he has been influenced by the Eastern bloc political posters, public murals, and illustrations of his youth, Rauch's contemporary take on that earlier style is a dramatic departure.  Somberness pervades Rauch's paintings where the earnest activity of his ideal workers seems directed toward no productive end.  Scale and space are out of sync in scenes in which humans interact with beastlike forms in illogical landscapes.  Although narratives with a metaphoric aspect, these works are not easily parsed. Ambiguous and sometimes menacing, the stories his paintings tell are retro-futuristic fantasies of a world at once strange and eerily familiar, recognizable not from experience but perhaps from dreams.

Selected Bibliography:
Gingeras, Alison M. "Neo Rauch: A Peristaltic Filtration System in the River of Time." Flash Art 35, no. 227 (November-December 2002): 62-69.
Neo Rauch. Exhibition catalogue. Maastricht, Netherlands: Bonnefanten Museum; Ostfildern-Ruit, Germany: Hatje Cantz, 2002.
Neo Rauch: Paintings and Drawings. Exhibition catalogue. Berlin: Deutsche Guggenheim, 2001.
Neo Rauch: Randgebiet. Exhibition catalogue. Leipzig: Galerie für Zeitgenössische Kunst, 2000.
Tuymans, Luc. "What the Painters Say." Art Press (July-August 2002): 37-46.

Carnegie International,
* For more in-depth information about these terms and others, see Glossary

** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at

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About  Neo Rauch

Born:  1960 - Leipzig, Germany
Known for:  surreal, fantasy, narrative painting