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Heinrich Nüsslein (1879-1947)

  • Die reingeistige Welt. Öl auf Karon, 1943
  • Marslandschaft. Öl auf Karon, 1943
  • Sados. Öl auf Karton, 1943

Alle Bilder: © Elmar R. Gruber

Heinrich Nüssleiin

Heinrich Nüsslein from Nuremberg is one of the most famous mediumistic artists. He grew up in modest circumstances and had to quit the Kunstgewerbeschule in Nuremberg for financial reasons and because of his severely restricted vision. For some time he worked as a photographer and sales representative for the Dr. Trenkler & Co. art institute in Leipzig, Germany. Just before World War I he started a very successful career as an antique dealer in Nuremberg. Nüsslein made a considerable fortune, which he invested in representative estates, such as the castle of Kornburg near Nuremberg. After participating in spiritual séances in 1923, he spontaneously discovered his ability to write and draw automatically. Soon he developed a special technique to apply oil paints in thin glazes with large brushes and subsequently to work out the motifs from the wet color layers with a cloth and especially with his fingers in a gestural painting style. He usually did not take longer than 15 minutes to finish a painting. Nüsslein mostly painted in a darkened room, when the colors on the palette could hardly be distinguished. Thus, he created thousands of extraordinary, impressive and very distinct paintings: landscapes of alien planets, of unknown and sunken peoples, portraits of "beings", fantastic structures of a personal mythology or so-called "contact pictures", in which he translated the essence of a piece of music in a vibrant visual language.

Nüsslein called himself a "picture-writer" (Bilderschreiber), and believed that deceased artists such as Albrecht Dürer guided his hand. The fantastic buildings in his paintings are reminiscent of stage sets. Exotic or architectural elements composed of different styles seem to float in an indeterminate space, that seems to be flat yet at the same time of immeasurable depth. Groups of ciphers-like figures gather like waves the foreground.

His castle Kornburg served Nüsslein for the permanent exhibition of his works. Heinrich Nüsslein sympathized with National Socialism, but since 1936 the rulers had always regarded his work as “degenerate art”. His possessions were confiscated, but his works escaped from complete destruction in a manner, which can no longer be elucidated today. In 1937, Nüsslein retired to his country house in Ruhpolding, Bavaria, where he died in 1947. Heinrich Nüsslein wrote several texts and books on his art, and numerous articles on him were published. Already at the end of the 1920s, exhibitions at home and abroad had made him famous far beyond the borders of Germany.

Nadine Müller wrote the most important monograph on Nüsslein's work in her master's thesis (Mediale Malerei: Zum Werk von Heinrich Nüsslein. Düsseldorf, 2003.)