The German painter Norbert Tadeusz always wanted a lot of everything: paint, drink, women

Naked bodies tumble over each other, other bodies lie twisted or curled together on the floor. A corpse is divided into two, naked gymnasts hanging in ropes or in the rings. A group of sailors dressed in immaculate white pauses on the floor between deliciously shiny wind instruments. In the background a classic arcade. And again: everywhere the rushing, naked bodies.

The four wall-filling paintings by the German painter Norbert Tadeusz (1940-2011) in the specially built Tadeusz Pavilion in the Museum Insel Hombroich in Neuss near Düsseldorf are true spectacles. Two canvases, eight feet high and four feet wide, hang side by side against the back wall. On both side walls hangs a long painting eight feet wide and four high. Together they form a kind of triptych. The space is a bombastic counterpoint in the otherwise quiet museum gardens – where about thirteen pavilions, or ‘walk-in sculptures’, with art can be discovered between the long grass – all without nameplates, because here the eye has to do the work.

That Tadeusz Pavillon in Museum Insel Hombroich, designed by Erwin Heerich. Photo by Tomas Riehle / Marburg

The powerhouse painter Norbert Tadeusz is a fairly well-known name in Germany, but Tadeusz’s paintings are rarely seen in the Netherlands. It is about to change: Museum of Modern Realism More in Gorssel presents from 22 May under the title Life as a spectacle a large overview of the painter from Düsseldorf.

“Tadeusz was a huge man,” says his widow, artist Petra Lemmerz (1957) in Tadeusz’s former studio. From this gigantic former garage in Düsseldorf, she manages Tadeusz’s property. More than a thousand works are in a separate room, packed and stored on wooden racks. “Sometimes we sell something to pay for this huge space, maintenance is very expensive, we have continuous leaks.” What is immediately striking: How huge almost all paintings are. “Tadeusz always wanted a lot of everything: paint, drink, women. He’s always had so much energy. “

This temperament can also be seen in the forty paintings from the estate that Museum More brings to Holland for the exhibition. Again many carcasses and tumbling bodies, but also: stumbling horses, a burning bouquet and intense shadows. Of Miles (2006) Tadeusz painted an intriguing portrait of Miles Davis in the swimming pool. Even with a seemingly intimate subject like Shaving myself in the mirror (1970), the colors spring from the canvas.

Powerful

Remarkably, well-known motifs from other figurative painters return: Chaïm Soutine and Francis Bacon’s carrion, Vincent van Gogh’s hay bales, the swimming pool and David Hockney’s bright colors, Lucian Freud’s twisted bodies and even the long, cool shadows of Edward Hopper. Without literally copying them, these patterns return to Tadeusz, in a sort of whipped steroid form. As if the painter wanted to use everything to achieve his goal: as powerful an image as possible.

Norbert Tadeusz, Himself with beef1984, oil on canvas, 165 x 205 cm.
Photo Norbert Tadeusz Estate
Norbert Tadeusz, Himself with beef1984, oil on canvas, 165 x 205 cm.
Photo Norbert Tadeusz Estate

“Tadeusz immersed himself in art history,” says Lemmerz, “but he looked mainly at older masters like Velázquez, Titian.” Lemmerz and Tadeusz met at the Venice Biennale in the late 1990s. Together they then had a house in Italy where Lemmerz and her new partner, the painter Andreas Schön, still go every year.

Unlike Tadeusz, Lemmerz does not paint figuratively, but abstractly – she makes swirling compositions in bright neon colors. “We talked about painting together, but especially about his paintings. Not so much about my paintings, though he took them seriously. Tadeusz was especially pleased that I was also an artist, so I could understand his art. “

Norbert Tadeusz, Cadutti 111997, acrylic on canvas, 239 x 295 cm.
Photo Norbert Tadeusz Estate
Norbert Tadeusz, Moving image shaving cream1987, oil on canvas, 150 x 200 cm.
Photo Norbert Tadeusz Estate
Photo Norbert Tadeusz Estate

In terms of content, Tadeusz did not say much about his motives. “His art was about discovering the world for him. He painted what he saw around him. ” At the same time, the compositions are particularly well thought out and appear constructed. “Tadeusz always knew exactly what he wanted. He always composed, tore out drawings and photographs and slid them across the table until he had what he wanted. Tadeusz was more interested in color and the paint itself,” says Lemmerz, “than in the sense of the painting.” ‘I’m not an artist, I’m a painter,’ was his often quoted motto.

So the naked bodies, where do they come from? “Tadeusz loved dance very much. For several years, dancers from the company Pina Bausch from Wuppertal visited his studio,” says Lemmerz. “They walked around his studio naked. Men and women – but primarily women. They must have been complete happenings. One of my friends once told me that she was entering Tadeusz’s studio at the time such an event was taking place and that she would leave immediately. It was not for her. After Tadeusz and I met, these events were over. He had stopped by himself. “

Norbert Tadeusz, Zebra and giraffe2001, acrylic on canvas, 400 x 400 cm.
Photo Norbert Tadeusz Estate
Norbert Tadeusz, Zebra and giraffe2001, acrylic on canvas, 400 x 400 cm.
Photo Norbert Tadeusz Estate

In 1000 years

Tadeusz thought he was painting for eternity, Lemmerz says. He wanted people to look at his paintings in a way a thousand years from now and compared himself to the big names. “He could not stand that Picasso made more than ten thousand paintings, and he himself ‘only’ made two thousand. Picasso was a great hero to him. In fact, Tadeusz thought he should have been much more famous than he was. ”

He always painted nicely dressed. “He would not look like a ‘Mahlschwein’, a paint pig,” says Lemmerz. “He liked nice clothes, nice colors and good food. We went out to eat every day. He had regularly quarreled with his ex-wife about who was in charge of the dishes. To prevent that with us, we went out and ate every day. ”

Norbert Tadeusz, Without title1979, oil on canvas, 70 x 102 cm.

Photo Norbert Tadeusz Estate

With his wild character, Tadeusz must have fitted perfectly into the twentieth-century ideal of a maladapted artist. At the art academies where he taught, he had a reputation as a troublemaker, says Lemmerz’s current partner, the painter Andreas Schön. As a student, he attended Tadeusz’s class. “He was often furious at his students: he banged through the classroom and shouted things like, ‘What is this?’ .

Later, Schön also took lessons with the painter Gerhard Richter and worked for a time as his assistant: “As an accompanist, Richter was the complete opposite of Tadeusz: distant, modest. On the Richter there was only one bottle of wine for a party of fifteen people, Tadeusz always had a whole drinking cart. A completely different idea of ​​the good life. ”

For the last few years of his life, Tadeusz was seriously ill. From another room in the studio, Lemmerz retrieves the last two works of art he has made from his sick bed. In a frame is seen the almost unrecognizable scribble charcoal drawing of a large lamp in the ceiling of his studio (“he drew the light”), next to which she holds up a small oil painting. It shows a deserted, winding road. The last thing the immense painter caught, from the bed in the clinic, was the way out.

Exhibition Norbert Tadeusz: Life as a spectacleMay 22 to October 2 in Museum More, Gorssel. Inl: museummore.nl

Leave a Comment