Saturday, 16 January 2010

Düsseldorf, Rupprecht Geiger and red lipstick

I have been wandering around the cash-heavy and therefore art-heavy city of Düsseldorf. There is a prized collection of Klee, a history of Beuys and other 20th century giants, any number of art bookshops and an increasing number of minimalist galleries selling contemporary art of varying quality and constistently high prices. At least some of Düsseldorf’s wealth is channeled into museums. Two houses of the Kunstsammlung NRW (new sexy publicity names: K20 and K21) are undergoing major refurbishment and - brace yourself - enlargements.

K20 (Kunst des 20. Jahrhunderts, get it?)

K21 (Kunst des 21. Jahrhunderts)

To cut a long story short, after a visit to the Ceramics Museum Hetjens) I had time to spare and wandered into one of the largest art bookshops in the museum area and picked up a free art newspaper. In it I found a short note on the death in December 2009 of Rupprecht Geiger at the ripe old age of 101. I cannot say that I am terribly familiar with his work, but I did know that he was to the colour red what Yves Klein is to blue. Similar to Kenneth Noland, who did a few weeks later, Geiger was resolute in his quest for abstraction and throughout his career as painter and lecturer dealt with the relationship between colour and space.

He is quoted as having said that "Red is life, energy, potency, authority, love, warmth, power. Red gets you high". It sounds a little too aggressive and sweeping to me, but one is reminded of Goethe and others attributing moral values to colour back in the early 19th century. I like this anectode about Geiger better than his quote: Apparently he first became fascinated with the colour red when he opened a so-called “care parcel” after WW2 and found amongst its contents a bright red lipstick. He withheld it from his wife and used it as paint. You wonder whether the marriage lasted.
Interestingly he regarded colour an element, alongside fire, water and air.


  1. The man was clearly a monster: withholding lipstick - surely grounds for divorce?

  2. Alexandra,
    hier ein paar links zu Farbtheorie und Orient, die liefert. Hoffend, dass nicht alles old hat ist:

    (=Das Bild des Orients in der französischen Malerei von Napoleons Ägypten ...
    Von Angelika Leitzke)
    ( = Deutsche Orientmalerei in der zweiten Hälfte des 19. Jahrhunderts ...
    Von Karin Rhein);jsessionid=ECCEE22CA9B62589E634BBA9C77ED08C?hosts=

  3. This week on the Forum, the impact colour has on our lives. Belgian neuroscientist Guy Orban reveals his latest findings on where the brain views colour. American legal expert Paul Butler on why he believes colour and race matter for a fairer criminal justice system. And British philosopher Angie Hobbs on the importance of being precise when we translate colour into words.

    Ein gutes Neues Jahr: