Political journey

A. R. Penck – Der Übergang

A. R. Penck, Der Übergang, 1963, oil on canvas, 94 x 120 cm, Ludwig Forum für Internationale Kunst Aachen, loan of the Peter and Irene Ludwig Founda - tion, © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2020, photo: Carl Brunn

The stick figure walks a dangerous path. Like a tightrope walker, it crosses a fragile, narrow footbridge. Flames flare up towards him from the abyss. A. R. Penck’s painting style is reminiscent of prehistoric cave paintings; it enables him to establish a pictorial language with a high recognition value. 

In terms of content, he focuses on the complex question of the division of Germany and the associated search for the individual’s place within a socially divided structure. Already at the time of the creation of Der Übergang, the painting was considered a political metaphor for the division of the two German states. For the artist, Der Übergang becomes a personal reality: In 1980, Penck moves from Dresden to Cologne before his path leads him to Great Britain.