Aesthetics / Art

About K. O. Götz



Karl Otto Götz is one of my favorite painters. He is one of the main exponents in Germany of the “Informel”, the European counterpart to the American Abstract Expressionism. As an arts professor at Kunstakademie in Düsseldorf, he also was a teacher of several important artists, including, for example, Gerhard Richter.

Should you be in, or travel to, Berlin between December this year to March next year, you can take the opportunity to visit an exhibition showing works of Götz in Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin from December 13th 2013 to March 2nd, 2014. Don’t miss it if you have the opportunity! I hope I won’t (the exhibition is travelling to Duisburg afterwards, which is nearer to where I live, so I am going to see it there; see the link to Götz’s home page below, there is a list of exhibitions and there are several of them)! During the time of that exhibition, on 22nd of February 2014, Götz will, hopefully, celebrate his 100th birthday. The picture above, created in 2012, shows that, even at such an advanced age (and even largely blind), an artist can still be productive, and produce great works.

Götz is painting his pictures in a very short time, but after an extensive time of preparation and planning. He eventually tries to do the actual painting process in a few seconds, in order to avoid too much conscious interference or control in the movements of the painting process. In 1959 he described the method he was then using in the following way (translation by myself):

According to the scheme 2:1:1/2, a three-step painting process was employed. About two seconds length of the first inscription. Pause. Control of what has happened. Meditation on what is coming. About one second length of the second inscription, with the sqeegee, Pause. Control of what has happened. Meditation on what is coming., about half a second, length of the third and last intervention with the empty paintbrush. Long pause and control of the finished picture. Approval or obliteration. *)

I suspect that in his more complex paintings, he is using several cycles of this kind or some modification of this scheme, but according of what I have read (and seen on TV) this largely describes the way he is working till today. Before creating paintings in this way, he spends time to plan the pictures, making sketches, drafts and studies. He developed a number of picture schemes he is using repeatedly (resulting in similar, but also different pictures). It looks like these are partially implemented in the form of movement patterns that enable him to continue painting even after becoming blind (today his wife, the painter Rissa, is doing the final control of the resulting pictures). Götz started painting in this way in 1952 after discovering that a mix of certain paints with wallpaper paste had a consistency allowing this way of fast work.

Since I am interested in the role of randomness in art, and the method of painting developed by Götz incorporates a great deal of that, I am also theoretically interested in his work. It was also of special interest for me to learn that he has published some articles on perceptual psychology and on information theory as applied to arts, an approach to aesthetics prevalent in the 1950s and 1960s that is connected to my own thoughts about the topic.

Here is another picture, from 1968:


(The pictures are from and

*) “Nach dem Schema 2:1:1/2 wurde ein dreiteiliger Malvorgang angewandt. Ca. zwei Sekunden, Dauer der ersten Niederschrift. Pause. Kontrolle des Geschehenen, Meditation des Kommenden. Ca. eine Sekunde, Dauer der zweiten Niederschrift, mit dem Rakel. Pause. Kontrolle des Geschehenen. Meditation des Kommenden, Ca. eine halbe Sekunde, Dauer des dritten und letzend Eingriffs mit leerem Pinsel. Lange Pause und Kontrolle des fertigen Bildes: Anerkennung oder Auslöschung”. Citation from: Tayfund Belgin, “Was ist Informel? Eine Annäherung über Bildkategorien” in “Kunse des Informel. Malerei und Skulptur nach 1952″ (Tayfun Belgin, ed.), Köln, 1997”, cited according to “Karl Otto Götz ‘In Erwartung Blitzschneller Wunder'”, Kerber Art. 2010 (Catalog of an Exhibition in Museum Rolandseck).


You can find the very interesting oficial page of K. O. Götz here.

An article about him in the online version of German news magazin Der Spiegel can be found here.

Another article from the online edition of German weekly paper Die Zeit can be found here.

A video on the web site of German TV station Das Erste. Much of what he is saying there is cited in the Die Zeit article linked above. Unfortunately, the video is only available here until 26th of January. Don’t miss the chance to see him painting.

Actually, there are lots of articles at the moment,  now that Götz is turning 100, I cannot link them all, at least not directly.

19 thoughts on “About K. O. Götz

  1. In each of these works I feel such a flutter of different emotions. Thank you for writing this post. I was not aware of this artist.

    • Since he is turning 100 tomorrow, there are lots of articles about him at the moment. If you search, you are going to find a lot more wonderful paintings, for example, on his own web site. There are also several exhibitions at the moments, one reason more to visit Germany 🙂

    • You are lucky to be there in Berlin already. I will have to travel, but I think Berlin is worth a trip anyway.

    • I am imagining you there taking close up macro photographs of 4 cm x 5 cm sections of his pictures 🙂

    • Hi Blaz, I discovered the exhibition is also comming to Duisburg. That is a lot nearer to cologne, so I will wait until it comes there. Hope you had or will have the opportunity to visit it in Berlin.

        • Yes, I think he is a great painter. And he was also important as a teacher or others, like Gerhard Richter. People are gradually rediscovering this direction of art and in this direction, he is one of the very big ones.
          Quite unbelivable that in less than 5 hours, he will be 100 years old!
          There is another exhibition in Aachen (where Götz was born). It is probably smaller, but that is near to Cologne. I am going to go to the exhibition you saw today when it will be comming to Duisburg.

        • I saw the exhibition today in Duisburg. Marvelous. This is really a great painter. The Museum Küppersmühle is also generally worth a visit. They have some paintings of other artists I like, e.g. Gerhard Richter and K.R.H. Sonderborg, among others.

  2. I have never heard of this artist. Glad I have, now. Thanks for the information. I especially love the quote on his working process. It is a confident artist who will admit and celebrate the role of chance and serendipity in his work. So much of the time we want to believe that we are always in control of everything when so many times the answer seems to be to let go of such control.

    • I have linked a page from a TV station where they show a video, but it is only available for a few days. There you can see him painting. Just a few seconds of the video, but that is how fast he did this.

  3. Reblogged this on The Kellerdoscope and commented:

    In a few days, Karl Otto Götz will be celebrating his 100th birthday, Congratulations!
    This is reason enough for me to reblog my article about him from last year. I have added a few interesting links to the article.

  4. Pingback: 100 Years – Happy Birthday, Karl Otto Götz! | The Kellerdoscope

  5. Thanks for the continued Likes Nannus. Hopefully soon you’ll be able to view my works in Cologne as the Gallery I’m currently showing plans on opening a space this year. Appreciate the art history herein. Positive vibes!

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