German painter, one of the leading figures in the art of East Germany, born in Wrocław (Breslau). He studied at the Leipzig Academy but abandoned the course in 1951, disillusioned by the rigid political line imposed by the Communist Party. Nonetheless he continued painting and in 1961, after concurring with the official demand for ‘partisan’ art, he was appointed professor at the Leipzig Academy, subsequently becoming rector. In 1964 he made a speech in favour of an art that ‘makes waves, provokes, attacks’, for which he was dismissed from his post as rector. Subsequently, to the disappointment of some, he retracted his statement. By the early 1970s the idea of a more critical kind of art had gained official favour and Heisig became one of the leading and most exportable East German painters, being seen, for example, in documenta 6. His painting is in a somewhat Expressionist manner, which Heisig said was a device to distance the viewer from the subject to allow for a more open interpretation of meaning. The same consideration applies to the accumulation of images and historical references in a way that can be confusing to the uninitiated. He was highly influential as the teacher of artists such as Neo Rauch, who have become stars of the post-Communist art world.
http://www.signandsight.com/features/92.html H. Rauterberg, ‘The only thing I can really paint well is anger’, Sign and Sight (8 April 2005).