Eugen Schönebeck + panOpticon


The Eugen Schönebeck Catalogue Raisonné Project Uses panOpticon Tools

Eugen Schönebeck occupies a crucial position in the trajectory of post-1945 art. He not only pioneered a unique manner of integrating historical content into his work but almost singularly reinvigorated the genre of portraiture in Germany. Schönebeck, who was born in 1936 in the outskirts of Dresden, began to draw at about thirteen years of age. In 1954 he received a scholarship to continue his training as a decorative wall painter at the Fachschule für Grafik, Druck und Werbung in Oberschöneweide in Berlin’s East sector. Convinced that he couldn’t develop his artistry further in East Germany, he successfully applied for admission to the Hochschule für Bildende Künste in West Berlin, where he began to take classes in October 1955. Two years later, his first mature drawings emerged. These Tachist-style works and those that followed during the next four years, retained figurative elements absent from the abstract paintings he was also making at the time. He also developed a close friendship and artistic coöperation with fellow student Georg Baselitz later leading to their two Pandemonium Manifestos (1961/62)

It was not until late in 1961, the year he graduated the Hochschule that Schönebeck decided in favor of a more figurative mode of working. At times strangely humorous, the subsequent drawings that flowed from his hand also abounded with a good dose of the grotesque. Later Schönebeck stated his primary aim had been “to try . . . to let a certain tenor rise to the surface . . . a consciousness of crisis, pervasive sadness, gruesomeness, and even perverseness that I found missing in the work of my colleagues.”

In 1964 Schönebeck broke through to a new monumental style of painting. That year he began to transform mass media photographs of politicians, poets, and artists who sympathized with vari­ants of socialism into quasi-religious emblems. These likenesses and the few large scale drawings that fo­lowed them attest to Schönebeck’s struggle to find a mid­dle way between art made for the cap­ital­ist mar­ket and work harnessed to polit­ical ends. Disinclined to turn his back on either of these aes­thetic traditions and unwill­ing to compromise the moralistic edge of his art, Schönebeck decided to stop painting in the 1970s. Nevertheless, since the early 1980s curators, aware of the significance of his work, have included his work in almost every important survey exhibition of post­war German art presented internationally. His art was ahead of its time, and its meaning continues to endure, especially for a younger generation of artists.

We at panOpticon are pleased that the Eugen Schönebeck Catalogue Raisonné Project, edited by Juerg Judin and Pay Matthis Karstens, chose our innovative content management system for this important undertaking. More information about the project and contact details can be found at

Above: Eugen Schönebeck, Baum (Tree), 1957, ink on paper, 5 3/8 x 8 3/8 inches. Photo courtesy, Galerie Judin, Berlin.


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