University Art Gallery

Theatrum Rdo: The Late Work of Richard Winther

November 1, 2008 - January 15, 2009

The Danish artist Richard Winther occupies a unique place in the history of Danish art. As a young man -- shortly after World War II -- he traveled to Paris on a regular basis, visiting artists such as Alberto Giacometti and Man Ray. Although participating in the different movements and events that characterized Denmark and Europe in the 1940s, 50s and early 60s, he maintained a unique and individual take on what art could and should be, always experimenting with a wide range of techniques, including film and music, and always asserting the role of subject matter and storytelling. This exhibition is devoted to his late work.

A 2001 dinner with an old artist friend, Jørgen Rømer (who, like Winther, died in 2007) triggered an extensive series of reflections on the passage of time, and on fame, sex, and death. Jørgen Rømer's art is very different from Winther's, representing one of the finest examples of the abstract, tachiste movement in Denmark of the late 1950s and early 60s.

By 2001, Rømer's health had deteriorated. Rømer happened to live in Wiedeweltsgade (Wiedewelt Street), named for the 18th century Danish artist, Johannes Widewelt. Wiedewelt is the artist who introduced Neo-Classicism in Denmark in the 18th century after returning from Rome where he had been a close friend of the German art historian Winckelman. Richard Winther's reflections on friendship and art immediately included references to Johannes Wiedewelt, who old, infirm, and basically forgotten, although still a professor at the Danish Academy, drowned late one night in 1802 in the lake at the end of the street where Rømer lived.

The theme expanded quickly and includes a range of characters and scenarios. Indeed, Richard Winther freely establishes characters -- real or imaginary -- in his work, that act out scenarios and sometimes, in a dream-like fashion, change into other characters, interacting in new scenarios, always among a variety of props and attributes. The extensive series of work devoted to Wiedewelt can be seen as Winther's own reflection on mortality, love and death. The exhibition includes selected work from other major series that Winther worked on during the same period of time.

Richard Winther's style is figurative and expressionistic, and much of it created with cheap and disposable materials. Almost all the small and medium size paintings were painted on corrugated cardboard with discarded wall paint. Richard Winther's work is serious, yet at the same time delightfully funny, with extensive references to literature, myth, art history, and the human comedy.

The exhibition, Theatrum Rdo: The Late Work of Richard Winther, features almost 170 large, medium, and small paintings, a selection of large sculptures, and a selection of small ceramic sculptures. All the work was done in the period from 2000 - 2007, the years before the artist's death at age 81.

The exhibition also includes two untitled paintings from the year Winther died, providing the viewer an opportunity to see how Richard Winther worked on a large scale with complex imagery and subject matter.

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