German painter, born in Leipzig, where he still lives and works. He grew up in East Germany and was trained under Bernhard Heisig. In the Communist East Germany during the 1980s, overtly propagandistic Socialist Realism had given way to a more critical kind of painting, sufficiently ambiguous to avoid any open attack on the existing order, but acting as a safety valve for intellectuals and providing evidence of openness for well-wishers in the West. The system still provided artists with formidable skills in the production of figurative painting. Rauch's paintings, which have had enormous success with collectors, are very much a product of such a system. They are on a large scale. Individual figures and objects are startlingly illusionistic, but as the consequence of superb drawing rather than meticulous finish, and the actual space in the painting is incoherent. The paint is very thin, the colour reminiscent of old cheap colour printing common in the Communist block. Peter Schedahl describes Rauch as a ‘bard of Eastern Europe, rooted in the obsolete future of revolutionary hopes’. Much of the appeal of his painting, apart from its considerable technical skill, certainly lies in the way in which the images of Socialist Realism, once the bearers of threats and promises, are paraded as comfortingly emasculated. For Rauch, recognition has come more through the market than the museum, but a major exhibition was mounted at the Metropolitan Museum, New York, in 2007.
P. Schedahl, ‘Paintings for Now’, The New Yorker (4 June 2007)