Friedrich Alexander Großkopf

1The artist’s life

FAG is an abbreviation for Friedrich Alexander Großkopf.

Fritz Großkopf, called ‘Fibbes’ by many of his friends, was born in Cologne on 24 August 1916 and died there in 1990 at the age of 74.

After finishing school, he was drafted into the Wehrmacht, the Germany Army. In 1941, he was wounded so severely near Leningrad (today St. Petersburg) that the Wehrmacht discharged him from military service.

Fritz Großkopf, who was blessed with a talent for figurative drawing, started studying art, first in Düsseldorf, then in Munich, and finally, until the end of the war at the Art Academy in Vienna, where he was a master student of Professor Andri.

In 1942, he married a fellow art student and painter, Waltraud Schumacher, and they had two children. His daughter Roswitha was born in Vienna in 1944 and died very young in 1972. His son Ekkehard was born in 1945 in Eichstätt (Bavaria) when, after the turmoil of war, Fritz Großkopf was fleeing back to the Rhineland in a horse-drawn carriage with his young family.

After his first wife Waltraud died in 1969, Fritz Großkopf remarried in 1972, wedding Agnes Großkopf, née Stöwesand. Throughout his life, Fritz Großkopf, who was highly praised by his professors, worked as a painter and graphic designer, at times as his main job, and at times on the side. But after his arduous return to post-war Cologne, he first had to feed his family, which he managed to do under adventurous conditions. He painted portraits, decorated show windows, provided a department store with advertising art, worked at international trade fairs and designed advertising for industry.

In parallel to the necessity of earning a living, Fritz Großkopf always maintained a private painting studio, first in his flat in Cologne-Nippes and later in his house in Cologne-Lindenthal, to pursue his artistic ambitions and to be able to paint what was on his mind. Artistically, the painter Fritz Großkopf views man as a being that is in motion.

2Artistically, the painter Fritz Großkopf
views man as a being that is in motion.

His works speak about people of our time, but under the aspect of leisure time, of pleasure, and of sport. Ice skaters, sailors, dancers, people as onlookers, as idlers on the beach, on the banks of the river Rhine, during Carnival, in the snow, as musicians, as artists, as cyclists. His people are shaped by their movement.

Conversely, the painter Fritz Großkopf lends their portrayed movements the unmistakable character of their personality. People only become ‘real people’, to use a phrase from German literature, when they play, when they are allowed to play. They become more relaxed in their familiar home environment, which is always reproduced in Großkopf’s work. Here Grosskopf is by no means a naive painter, he himself categorized as positive realist.

Such a combination of cheerful and curious people in their home environment has long been absent from painting. We have go way back in pictorial representations to find an artist who takes such spontaneous pleasure in all the excitement around him.

3Statements made by the artist

“The freedom of art is the freedom of those artists who do not feel obliged to comply with the dictates of the established art scene. Naturally, there are people who do not have visual aesthetic sensitivities, just as there are people who do not have a sense of harmony in the acoustic musical realm. I don’t mean the visually impaired or those who are colour-blind. I’m thinking about people – or their descendants – who have lost the sense of aesthetics developed by evolution.

Looking back at the cultural development of both civilized and primitive peoples, we can observe a rapid aesthetic decline in the course of the nineteenth century. The latter, bound to the Western world through religious missions and political colonization, were drawn into this.

The industrial revolution and the introduction of the metric system seem to have contributed to this. The approximate time point of the transformation is reflected by the change in proportions in architecture. The development of craftsmanship, particularly handicrafts, is also revealing.

That was the eighth day of creation. With it, the destruction of the earth began. The machine pushed between man and Nature. The people who were to subjugate the earth became vermin. Culture was replaced by civilization. A part of the population recognized this instinctively and put up dogged resistance to the chemo-physical destruction. But only a few realized that as a result, the life form of the beautiful that had evolved over millions of years would suffer its holocaust.

There were times of recuperation and reflection, to be sure. Art Nouveau, Impressionism and Expressionism held up hope that there would be change. But then the Third Reich came and lowered the boom. And the avant-garde came and annihilated what the Nazis had overlooked.”

4“Seventeenth-century painting in the ‘Seven Provinces’ of the Netherlands was art for the middle class.”

“Seventeenth-century painting in the ‘Seven Provinces’ of the Netherlands was art for the middle class. The nobility and the Church dropped out as clients. This painting can still be viewed today, while contemporary art from the morning will already be forgotten in the afternoon.”

“A picture is a painted surface that hangs framed or unframed on a wall. I was and still am interested in such pictures (drawings, paintings or prints).

Unlike the wall painting (fresco, sgraffito, secco, encaustic or mosaic), the picture is visually separated from its environment due to the frame, whether a narrow strip or a wide gold frame. The decorator or interior designer who shapes a space incorporates the picture in his or her spatial installation.

But the owner can remove it again, put it in the attic, sell it or give it to someone as a gift. Wall and picture do not enter into a marriage, parted only by death. Thus, the picture has an independent, harmonious function. It is conceived and designed by a painter or graphic designer based on his or her subjective desire and ability. We can buy it and hang it on the wall, in a place that we assume is appropriate, where we assume it looks good.

The face of the frame is almost as important as the picture itself. From now on, it belongs to our living space. We live with its presence. We look at it, view it and absorb what we see. We have to like the picture, if possibly at first glance. But it can be the case that we need time to fall in love with it. We first have to get used to the picture, have to conquer it for ourselves and experience its qualities. We have to speak with it and listen to it.”

6“Before I design a picture, I see a scene in my mind – you could also call it a stage set.”

“I definitely do not want to give the picture a literary, novelistic content. A stage set with actors, in other words an ‘open scene’ without dramaturgy.

The term that comes closest is: a still of life.

But a life that I like, that I dream about and that is where I want to be. I am interested in people because of their existence, not because of their actions, let alone because of their opinions, their religion, ideology or whatever else is simmering in their heads.

Nevertheless, there can be individual actors who are the reason for a group’s getting together, a clown, a tightrope walker or a preacher. I’d like to express it this way: I am not interested in what the man preaches, but in how he stands there, how he is listened to, how he forms a group with other people. I am surely not an Impressionist, yet I only see people from the outside and look for the beautiful in their movements and gestures, in the position of their limbs, in the fold of their clothing and in the nexus of the individual to a group.”

7“The depth that the perspective provides has to be compensated for by drawing and colour.”

“I compose the lines and the surfaces that they enclose into the image plane, and with their environment they are connected to the entire tableau.

Just as no sound can be missing in a sonata, every curve and every line node is important and has to be present. This is difficult if you don’t paint abstractly and freely shape the composition or leave it to chance.

The portrayed, the figures and landscape, announce their right to a real appearance. The graphically two-dimensional pictorial composition, which gives the line all of its expression and the form all of its energy, is influenced by early mediaeval book illumination as well as by Italian Renaissance fresco painting.

The superimposition of the perspective peculiar to my painting loosens it up, but does not destroy it. This is not built on visual experience, like the scenography of antiquity, but on geometrical construction, like the central perspective of the late Middle Ages.

It gives me a lot of freedom, which, however, I do not let spread unrestrainedly, but experience it in a self-created canon.

The depth that the perspective provides has to be compensated for by drawing and colour. After all, a picture is and remains a two-dimensional surface that you cannot stroll into.”