Heinz Ohff, who wrote the first comprehensive monograph about Fritz Köthe, describes the artist's biography as exemplary of a realistic painter, whose work was neither accepted during the Third Reich nor in post-war Germany. This resulted in a sort of extended "inner emigration" for Köthe until long after 1945. His breakthrough finally came with his surrealistic dream paintings which then led to his street and poster paintings. Köthe began his career as a painter's apprentice from 1931 to 1933. Before studying at the Staatliche Akademie für graphische Künste in Leipzig from 1936 onwards, he spent one year at the Graphische Fachschule in Berlin. He returned to Berlin after completing his studies in 1938. He began exhibiting works at the first post-war exhibitions in 1946. Köthe worked at a school of fashion design and press drawing in 1947and from 1951 to 1960 he worked independently for publishers and advertising agencies. He then resumed working as an independent artist. His first traffic-sign paintings were made in 1963 and his first posters one year later. He had his first one-man-show at the Galerie Springer in Berlin. Köthe had now found his own style and began tearing-up his painted backgrounds in the form of illusionist yet realistic collages based on documents of his time. He painted relics, apparently torn randomly out of magazines - fragmentary impressions from advertisements -, invented relationships between opposing objects and thus created new contexts in his collages. Köthe himself is able to perceive the world in this era of mass media and never-ending visual impressions only with a fragmented vision. This visual situation as a reflection of our urban environment was from now on the artists intention. Since 1967 numerous exhibitions were followed by a comprehensive show of his oeuvre in Berlin 1972.
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