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Extensive exhibition of more than 100 works by artist Emil Wachter at Museum Würth
Emil Wachter, Caféteria (Kunstmuseum Basel), 1990. Öl auf Leinwand, 141 x 102 cm. Sammlung Würth, Inv. 3278. Foto: Volker Naumann, Schönaich.

KUNZELSAU.- The Museum Würth in Künzelsau is devoting an extensive exhibition of more than 100 works to the Karlsruhe artist Emil Wachter. The main focus of the exhibition will be the considerable holdings of paintings and drawings by Wachter in the Würth Collection; these will be complemented by selected works on loan. The exhibits range from delicate watercolours and cycles of drawings to colourfully dense oil paintings to large triptychs. Wachter’s sacred art, which plays an important role in his oeuvre, and in particular his many stained-glass windows, will also be taken into consideration, as will his sculptures.

The painter, graphic artist, sculptor and theologian Emil Wachter was born in 1921. Although his art diverged from the established standards of his time from the very start, he was nevertheless firmly rooted in the European cultural heritage. Wachter had to involuntarily interrupt his theology and philosophy studies to do military service in Russia and France. He started painting in oils when still a soldier, in 1943. After the end of the Second World War he devoted his attention to painting and sculpture at the art academies in Munich and Karlsruhe, finally studying under Erich Heckel. Following a professorship at the Karlsruhe Art Academy, Wachter opted to become a free lance artist. He has been known to a wider audience since the mid-1950s mainly because of his works for churches: the iconographic programme for Saint Oswald’s in Buchen/Odenwald, Saint Killian’s in Osterburken, Saint Elisabeth’s in Landau, the design for the Saint Christopher motorway church in Baden-Baden, the cast concrete reliefs for the Adveniat crypt in Essen cathedral, the stained-glass windows for the Saint Marien church in Neuss and the ceiling painting in Saint Martin’s in Ettlingen, to mention just a few.

Wachter’s works revolve around the theme of man, touching repeatedly on the fundamental issues of human existence. For this he mainly has recourse to the Bible, particularly the narratives of the Old Testament, where he finds statements that are both generally valid and have a topical relevance. At first sight, the colours in his works are quite expressive in character, ranging from brilliant to muted and from cheerful to gloomy. They are in effect intended to depict light and thus – in Wachter’s sense – transcendence.

Alongside the more metaphorical themes, the artist has produced whole cycles of works in the classical disciplines of the landscape, the still-life and the portrait. The still-lifes are in the majority and in them he develops his most daring compositions, sometimes arranging rhythmically-unexpected, disparate, figurative and colour accents so far apart from one another as to create tension between the large planes of the painting’s ground. More recently the motif of “birds” has joined his other thematic groups, as the artist also regards their world as being representative of human behaviour.

For many years now, Wachter could be counted on to produce compositions that are dense and multifaceted. He addresses the issue of the prevalence of the divine creative principle in both the large and the small, the complex and the simple. It was in this sense that the artist explained his will to form in 1995, at the event marking the inauguration of the Emil Wachter Foundation: “What stems from us – a glass, a bottle, a plate, a few tubes – and what does not stem from us – an egg, an apples or a pumpkin – provide an extremely concentrated image of the whole world.”

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