Christian Rohlfs


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German painter and printmaker, born at Niendorf, Holstein. He turned to painting after a boyhood accident led to the amputation of one of his legs, forcing him to abandon plans to take over his father's farm. From 1901 he lived mainly in Hagen. Until he was well over 50 he painted in a fairly traditional naturalistic manner, but he then discovered the work of van Gogh, whose brilliant colour and intense personal feeling were a revelation to him. He became one of the pioneers of Expressionism in Germany, and in 1905–6 he painted with Emil Nolde. Rohlfs's favourite subjects were views of old German towns, colourful landscapes, and flower pieces. There were also powerful renderings of religious subjects such as The Creation (1916, Stätdisches Museum Abteiberg, Mönchengladbach). He preferred the technique of tempera, but, unusually for an artist working in this medium, he sought an atmospheric quality rather than hard, precise outline. Towards the end of his career he approached abstraction. Rohlfs's work in his new style won him considerable acclaim: in 1924 numerous celebrations were held to mark his 75th birthday, and in 1925 a museum of his work was founded in Hagen. A year before his death, however, he was declared a degenerate artist by the Nazis and forbidden to exhibit.

Subjects: Art.

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