Life as a spectacle
Museum MORE is presenting the first major survey in the Netherlands of the German painter Norbert Tadeusz (1940–2011). Although acclaimed in his own country, Tadeusz is much less known abroad. A little over ten years since his death, MORE is therefore keen to honour the artist with a museum platform for his powerful painting.
Norbert Tadeusz, Motion Picture Shaving Foam, 1987 ©Norbert Tadeusz Estate
The spectacular, monumental and colourful character of Tadeusz’ work can be overwhelming. Its sheer scale is frequently impressive in itself, while the canvas crackles with intensity. In his expressive and dramatic manner, he paints life as a grand spectacle, in which human beings constantly tie themselves in knots. Figures in space, from a nude woman to a slaughtered ox, are the central theme in Tadeusz’ work. He depicts human figures in complex compositions, literally and figuratively like acrobats in an existential circus.
Bravura and eloquence
In many of his still lifes, interiors and landscapes too, he applies an intricate interplay of lines, with theatrical lighting effects. A sensory form of devotion can be detected in the work of this son of Catholic Polish immigrants, and Tadeusz also mixes eroticism with spirituality. The time he spent in religiously minded Italy had a part to play as well, as did his admiration for Italian and Flemish masters. Tadeusz saw his work, in a sense, as ‘an attempt to attain the sacred’; albeit with occasionally disturbing subject matter and a merciless gaze.
The tide was against Tadeusz when he enrolled at the renowned Düsseldorf Art Academy, with Joseph Beuys as one of his teachers. The artistic Zeitgeist and his training were dominated by conceptual, socially engaged art, while painting had been pronounced dead. All the same, the young Tadeusz bravely opted for brush and canvas and embarked on his own course. He did so with bravura, but with a persuasive eloquence too. So much so that the artist was just 29 when he was given his first solo museum exhibition.
Norbert Tadeusz, Sacred Space with Cloth, 1971 ©Norbert Tadeusz Estate
Norbert Tadeusz, Armchair, 1976 ©Norbert Tadeusz Estate
Fearless and uncompromising, the German became one of the most influential and best-known figurative artists of his generation. Tadeusz took part in the 1982 Venice Biennale and went on to exhibit in Europe, Asia and the United States. The Museum Insel Hombroich near Neuss has been the home since 1992 to a Tadeusz Pavilion, purpose-built to present his monumental paintings.
"I am a painter"
Together with the likes of Georg Baselitz and Jörg Immendorf, he prepared the ground for a re-evaluation of the ‘classical’ approach to painting. There is a strong emphasis in Tadeusz’ work on virtuosity and the sensuality of paint and colour. Critics noted his kinship with Francis Bacon, but also with David Hockney and, going back further, Van Gogh, Munch and Rembrandt. Yet Tadeusz’ vibrant visual language was always clear to see, with the deft brushwork that was his unmistakable signature. Tadeusz’ motto – ‘I am not an artist, I am a painter’ – encapsulates both his art and his self-image. It comes as no surprise that he died still working in his studio.
Norbert Tadeusz, Nude on a Swivel Chair, 1978 ©Norbert Tadeusz Estate
Norbert Tadeusz, Cavalli I, 1995 ©Norbert Tadeusz Estate
Museum MORE’s artistic director, Maite van Dijk, has worked with the Norbert Tadeusz Estate to compile the exhibition from the painter’s unique personal collection. The selection of around 50 works offers a comprehensive survey of a truly great oeuvre: spectacular in both scale and significance, yet also restrained and poignant.
The exhibition will be accompanied by a richly illustrated book published by WBooks.