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Biography

1935
Konrad Peter Cornelius Klapheck born on 10 February in Düsseldorf. His father, Richard Klapheck (b. 1883), was professor of art history at the Art Academy in Düsseldorf until dismissed by the Nazis in 1934. His mother, Anna Klapheck, née Strümpell (1899), will teach at the same academy after 1945.

1939
Father dies.

1941
Begins elementary school.

1942
First bomb attacks on Düsseldorf; his mother takes Konrad to Leipzig.

1943
4 December, bomb attack on Leipzig. His grandparents’ home burns down; Konrad finds the red sky from the burning city a marvellous spectacle. Stays until 1945 in the Ore Mountains, Saxony.

1945
Witnesses the May invasion by the Red Army from a hiding place in the woods. Later there are friendly encounters with Soviet soldiers. Takes private Russian language course. Returns to Düsseldorf at the end of the year.

1946
Starts Humboldt High School. The art teacher, Kurt Prechtl, encourages him outside school hours. He gives him an assignment to draw a screw, greatly enlarged. First encounter with works by Matisse, Braque and Picasso at the exhibition Masterpieces of French Painting in Düsseldorf. Being inclined towards classical art and Albrecht Dürer, Konrad reacts at first with confusion, later with enthusiasm.
Reads extensively: at first fairy tales from world literature, stories from classical antiquity, German sagas and folk tales, then the Bible, which he begins to illustrate. In the literature of the nineteenth century it is mostly descriptions that fascinate him: that of a hotel room by Gogol, a harpoon by Melville, a second-hand dealer’s shop by Gottfried Keller. Discovery of modern literature: Kafka in 1949 (in the original editions of Schocken Verlag, Berlin), Joyce in 1951, Proust in 1954, Lautréamont in 1955.

1950
First encounter with authentic jazz at a Duke Ellington concert in Düsseldorf. Klapheck begins to collect records: Count Basie, Lester Young, Coleman Hawkins, Charlie Christian, Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk.

1951
Three weeks in London, staying with an English friend. Visits the Tate Gallery (now Tate Britain), the National Gallery and the British Museum and attends a performance of Cole Porter’s Kiss Me, Kate.
Remains a member until 1954 of several sport clubs (boxing, athletics).

1952
Travels to Italy with his mother (Verona, Venice, Florence, Ravenna, Rome). Takes lessons at a dancing school, where he meets his future wife, Lilo Lang.

1954
Graduates from high school (Abitur with Latin and Greek). Trip to Paris. Calls unannounced on Max Ernst, who gives him a signed copy of Sept Microbes. Begins studies at the Art Academy in Düsseldorf, where for a year he attends Bruno Goller’s life-drawing class. Klapheck completes two series of drawings, one in the style of Matisse, which his teacher likes, one for himself in imitation of Ingres.

1955
First painting of a typewriter. Goller encourages him to paint objects and discourages his flirtation with abstraction and tachisme.

1956–57
Stays for six months in Paris, first with Lilo Lang in the rue des Saints-Pères, later alone in Versailles. An attempt to enter the École des Beaux-Arts is turned down. Begins a friendship with the painter Christian d’Orgeix (b. 1927), who shows him original works by Marcel Duchamp (1887–1968) (Rotoreliefs, La Boîte verte) and lends him the novels of Raymond Roussel (1887–1933). Meets Édouard Jaguer (1924–2006), poet, organizer of exhibitions and publisher of the magazine Phases, with whom he will later collaborate.

1957
Publishes a booklet of small-scale drawings using klecksography (inkblots) and decalcomania, influenced by Max Ernst (Eremitenpresse, Stierstadt in the Taunus). Meets Yves Klein (1928–1962) at Klein’s first exhibition in Germany at Galerie Schmela, Düsseldorf. Later translates some texts for him into German.

1959
The New York art dealer George Staempfli visits Klapheck in his studio and buys six paintings for $1000. They are shown 1960 in the New York exhibition Paris Obsessions, along with works by Yves Klein, Soto and Fontana.
First solo exhibition at the Galerie Schmela, Düsseldorf. The only two paintings sold are bought by Willy and Fänn Schniewind for their collection. Reviews are mostly negative.

1960
Marries Lilo Lang and sets up house. Visits the painter Richard Oelze (1900–1980) in Worpswede and buys a drawing, the basis for a small Oelze collection. Klapheck receives a North Rhine-Westphalia art award (Förderpreis des Landes Nordrhein-Westfalen). Later he will refuse all prizes and other honors. In his first solo exhibition in a foreign country twenty-four pictures are shown in Milan at the Galleria Schwarz. The painter Enrico Baj (1924–2003) is one of the first buyers. At the opening Klapheck meets the surrealist poet E.L.T. Mesens (1903–1971) and the painter Sergio Dangelo (b. 1932).

1961
The art critic José Pierre introduces Klapheck to the circle of Paris Surrealists, with whom he forms contacts. He visits André Breton (1896–1966) who encourages him to participate in the evening meetings at the Café La Promenade de Vénus.

1962
The New York art dealer Leo Castelli visits Klapheck in his studio. Klapheck learns of a new art movement in America, later called Pop Art, that has parallels with his work. Castelli buys four pictures. The art dealer Rudolf Zwirner represents Klapheck in Germany and gives him several solo exhibitions.
First museum purchase by Niedersächsisches Landesmuseum Hannover . Klapheck meets the surrealist painter René Magritte (1898–1967) at a Magritte exhibition in Knokke-le-Zoute. He visits Brussels where Magritte criticizes the textured background of several pictures Klapheck brings with him: ‘The subjects are authentic. Why these picturesque additions?’ Magritte gives him a drawing.

Birth of his daughter Elisa.

1965
First solo exhibition in Paris at the Galerie Ileana Sonnabend. The catalogue includes an introduction by André Breton. Participates in the last major Surrealist exhibition, L’Écart absolu, at the Galerie L’Œil in Paris.

Birth of his son David.

1966
First retrospective organized by Wieland Schmied (1929–2014) for the Kestnergesellschaft, Hanover, and the Von der Heydt Museum, Wuppertal. Reviews are positive.

1967
WDR Broadcasting Station produces a thirty-minute black and white film on Klapheck, edited by Wibke von Bonin and directed by Nathan Jariv.

1969
Stays for three weeks with his family in New York for a solo exhibition of thirty-five pictures in the Sidney Janis Gallery. Peter and Irene Ludwig purchase two paintings, the first of a later collection of ten. Others find their way to the New York Meshulam Riklis collection. Meets the artists George Segal, Tom Wesselmann and James Rosenquist. Attends the weekly fight nights at Madison Square Garden.

1970
In US and Europe a new movement arises called Hyperrealism or Photorealism, which underlines Klapheck’s modernity, but also seems – through the technical virtuosity of some of its members – to eclipse Klapheck and his world of consciously simplified images. Participates in several exhibitions of this new movement: Ekstrem Realism at the Louisiana Museum (1973), in Humlebaek, Denmark, and Hyperréalistes américains – Réalistes européens (1974) in CNAC, Paris.

1973
Werner Schmalenbach purchases the painting Der Krieg [War] for the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen.

1974
Retrospective in Museum Boijmans-van Beuningen, Rotterdam, and later in Brussels and Düsseldorf (to 1975).

1976
Until 1980 intensive work in etching at the Atelier Hartmut Frielinghaus in Hamburg. Klapheck engraves twenty-six plates, copies of which are partly printed in different states, which Rudolf Zwirner shows in his Cologne gallery in 1977. For the first time preliminary drawings on a scale of 1:1 are exhibited, as Klapheck regularly produced them since 1973 for his paintings. Because of the movements New Fauves, New Expressionism and Graffiti Art, audience interest is distracted into other directions and Klapheck finds himself in the position of being no longer contemporary and not yet classical.
Accepts a professorship at the State Art Academy in Düsseldorf to teach painting.

1980
Exhibition at the Galerie Aimé Maeght, Paris, with twenty-five works.

1981
The First German TV Channel shows a 45-minute film (edited by Wibke von Bonin) shot by Eila Hershon and Roberto Guerra over a two-year period in collaboration with the artist.

1984
Lufthansa presents the Busch Reisinger Museum in Cambridge, Mass. with the preliminary drawing for Hero’s Song (224 x 281 cm).

1985
Retrospective shown at the Hamburg Kunsthalle, the Kunsthalle Tübingen and the Staatsgalerie moderner Kunst in Munich. Werner Hofmann is editor of the catalogue in book form published by Prestel. At the invitation of Wibke von Bonin, Klapheck writes a commentary on his painting War for the television series 100 Masterworks.

1986
Death of his mother, Anna Klapheck.

1987
Death of his wife, Lilo, when their holiday home in the Netherlands burns down. Klapheck starts learning Hebrew.

1988
Meets the costume designer Wanda Richter-Forgách, who inspires several important pictures: Confession, The Charming Scatterbrain, Man’s World II and others.

1990
Meets Josef Tal (1910–2008), a composer living in Jerusalem, and studies his music. Werner Hofman purchases the 1989 painting Confession for the Kunsthalle Hamburg on the occasion of his retirement.

1992
Again takes up life drawing at, among other places, the Académie de la Grande Chaumière in Paris. Klapheck begins a new project making full-length portrait drawings of all his friends.

1994
Three-week trip through China for an exhibition of his graphic work in Beijing’s Central Institute of Fine Arts. Gives two lectures: The Machine and I and War and Peace: Postwar German Art.
Prepares for his largest painting to date (312 x 720 cm), In the Age of Violence (dredger and truck). The preliminary drawing on a 1:3 scale takes 249 days to complete.
The Nationalgalerie Berlin, with the help of its circle of backers, buys the painting Splendor and Misery of Reforms (1971–1973).

1995
60th birthday exhibition at the Dieter Brusberg Galerie.

1997
In Paris and Zurich the Galerie Lelong exhibits work from the past seven years, including In the Age of Violence. This marks the end of his series dedicated to the object and the machine and he begins a new series of interiors and landscapes with nudes.

2002
Jean-Hubert Martin, director of the Museum Kunstpalast Düsseldorf, exhibits the portrait drawings Klapheck produced over a period of ten years in a joint exhibition with Wanda Richter-Forgách showing personalities of the international art scene. To coincide with the exhibition the Verlag Schirmer/Mosel produces a book with comments by Klapheck and an epilogue by Christoph Danelzik-Brüggemann.
Arturo Schwarz dedicates a book to Klapheck with contributions by André Breton, Annie Le Brun and Werner Schmalenbach. It is published by Gabrius, Milan.

2003
The Rheinisches Landesmuseum Bonn reopens with the exhibition Machines and Humans featuring works by Klapheck from 1955 to 2003.

2004
Begins a new series of paintings dealing with jazz, Swing, Brother, Swing. First paintings show individual musicians, then soloists with accompanists, then entire big bands. Main themes: the loneliness of the soloist faced with the indifference of his audience, and encounters between different musical cultures: Benny Goodman – Charlie Christian (Klezmer Blues), Lee KonitzStan Kenton (Lover Man).

2009
Klapheck is commissioned to design the official poster for the French Open tennis tournament Roland Garros.

2013
Klapheck paintings and drawings – retrospective at Museum Kunstpalast, Düsseldorf. Catalogue with texts by Beat Wismer, Kay Heymer, Gunda Luyken and K.K. (Hirmer Verlag, Munich).
Dreams on Paper – exhibition (with Wanda Richter-Forgách) of surrealist drawings and watercolours at Duet Art Gallery, Varese (Italy).

Father
Richard Klapheck, father of the artist, 1939

KK Mother
Anna Klapheck, mother of the artist, 1926

KK 4 years
Konrad at the age of 4, 1939

KK 13 years
Konrad at the age of 13, 1948

Bruno Goller
Bruno Goller, professor of the artist
at Art Academy in Düsseldorf

KK Modell tw
K.K. with the model of his first typewriter painting

Orgeix
Christian d‘Orgeix (drawing K.K.)

Galleria Schwarz
Exhibition opening at Galleria Schwarz, Milan in 1960. Third from left Arturo Schwarz, on the right (sitting) Lilo Klapheck, the painter Tancredi and K.K.

Zwirner
Rudolf Zwirner (drawing K.K., New York 2000)

Sonnabend
Ileana Sonnabend (drawing K.K.)

Family
Lilo, Elisa and David Klapheck, Venice, 1975

Schmalenbach
Werner Schmalenbach (drawing K.K.)

At work
K.K. working on his painting Autobiography, 1999 (Photo: Peter Sevriens)

Hofmann
Werner Hofmann (drawing K.K.)

KK with Wanda
K.K. and Wanda Richter-Forgách, 1988

KK Age of Violence
K.K. in front of his painting In the Age of Violence

Christmas Chamber
Preparations for the painting The Christmas Chamber, 1999. From left to right Wanda Richter-Forgách, art students of K.K.
(Photo: Wolfgang Kühn)

Swing Brother
Swing, Brother, Swing I, 2006

Round About
Round About Midnight, 2006

Audience
The Audience, 2008

Roland-Garros
Poster for the tennis tournament Roland Garros

Looking Ahead
K.K. working on the drawing for Looking Ahead
(Photo: Willi Kemp)

Kunstpalast
Exhibition in Kunstpalast, Düsseldorf, 2013

Portrait
K.K. in front of his drawing for Looking Ahead
(Photo: Willi Kemp)