Kurt Mühlenhaupt (1921 – 2006)

Rüben, Fische, Eierkuchen

(Beets, Fish Pancakes. A Picture Book about the old Berlin farmer’s market)

Munich: Parabel, 1975
[16] fol., oil on paper
25,5 x 26,5 cm, pictorical cardboard covers, celloglazed

The book and its history

Mühlenhaupt uses his paintbrush and oil paint to tell little stories of everyday life in text and pictures. It's tempting to follow the brushstrokes with the eyes, their sweeping contours for the various bodies, or the arches for the movement of arms and legs. The reduced form only hints at features: Faces with amazing noses, often rough mouths with many white dots as teeth in them, chunky buildings with handwritten advertising signs. Inevitably, one imagines the painter sitting in front of his paintings and telling stories, of old times, of the farmers' market, of poor people and traveling merchants, and of the mother who bravely and unapologetically fights against poverty by pretending it doesn't exist.
Mühlenhaupt shares something of himself as he always did when he painted. The pictures decidedly show his view, his world view. They are not about realistic details but rather about moods, perception, and understanding. So he often perceives the landscapes as gray, but people as colorful, diverse, unique. He once said that he loves crooked legs, which means that he is not interested in what is considered beautiful or meets the standard norms of beauty, but rather in what is individual, independent, different. His pictures for children and adults are hardly different. The only thing that stands out is perhaps the use of writing in the picture book images. It is as though he originally only wanted to tell stories in pictures and the text was added for editorial reasons - by himself or by the publisher.
With his oil paintings, the naive painter Kurt Mühlenhaupt presents himself as someone who sees himself in the middle of the Berlin milieu, without any explicit claim to art, but with a critical distance. From today's perspective, his picture books are impressive pictorial documents.

Biographical note

Kurt Mühlenhaupt, born in 1921 near Klein Ziescht between Prague to Berlin, died in 2006 in Bergsdorf near Berlin. He became known as a painter, sculptor, writer, Berlin original and "milieu painter".
Mühlenhaupt first completed an apprenticeship as a model builder, then was drafted into the paratroopers and returned injured from the war in the 1940s. After another wartime deployment, he studied at the Berlin Academy of Fine Arts from 1946 to 1949, but had to scrape by with various jobs for years. In 1956 he fled the GDR for West Berlin. He first ran a junk store there, where he also sold his own paintings, and starting 1960 he operated the "Leierkasten", a bohemian pub in Kreuzberg. In the same year he took part in the Great Berlin Art Exhibition. In 1974 he became a member of the group of "Berlin Painter-Poets", founded in Berlin-Kreuzberg in 1972, to which Günther Grass, Wolfdietrich Schnurre and others belonged. Mühlenhaupt's strongly colored paintings of everyday scenes and village life, his portraits and landscapes are on the one hand close to naive painting, but on the other hand are reminiscent of Expressionist paintings.
In 1990, Kurt Mühlenhaupt and his wife Hannelore converted an old cooperative farm north of Berlin in Bergsdorf into a museum, which houses his studio, showcases many of his works, and hosts numerous events.


http://www.muehlenhaupt.de  - Kurt Mühlenhaupt Museum

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