On the Person and his Work

By Ilse Fath-Engelhardt        
Translated from German by Steve Tomlin

Michael Engelhardt, born in 1952 in Erlangen, begins painting his own oil paintings when he is 12. At the age of 15 he decides that he wants to be an artist. After his 'Abitur' he studies under Clemens Fischer and Günther Voglsamer at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Nuremberg. In two sabbaticals he undertakes study trips to Africa and Asia. “Gently, but definitely“, is how Clemens Fischer taught how contrasts should face one another in abstract pictures.

In 1978, Michael Engelhardt is accepted into the master class of Rudolf Hausner at the Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna, to whom he later becomes private assistant for a short time. During his studies Michael Engelhardt travels nearly every year to Ezinge in northern Holland to study Dutch versions of realistic painting with his friend and teacher Matthijs Röling, who also teaches at the Akademie Minerva in Groningen. In this way he comes to endorse the view that art should not be politicised and that the urge for renewal needs to be kept within reasonable limits. In his early work, Michael Engelhardt combines this initially with a view of the world, things and people that could certainly be called a romantic one.

Since 1980 Michael Engelhardt has worked as an independent artist.

In his works Michael Engelhardt stands in a European tradition of humanism and enlightenment which is reflected among other things in many study trips to Greece. His view of nature continues to remain bound by that of Dutch Realism. Further points of contact for him are the Mannerism style of the Renaissance, early Classical Modernism, Symbolism (Arnold Böcklin), the early days of Surrealism and the Viennese school of Fantastic Realism (of which Rudolf Hausner was a co-founder). His objective is to evoke an allegorical awareness in the association of individual feeling and understanding, an understanding of the reality of unified opposites. Handicraft here is an important guideline for him.

Painting with oil on canvas is a very old technique. Michael Engelhardt's painting meets high standards of handicraft. He makes his own canvases. This means that he can determine the picture dimensions individually and choose the canvas according to the type of picture and its size. After stretching the canvas, it is prepared with a layer of paste and then primed in several work processes. Michael Engelhardt often adds intermediate layers of egg tempera to his oil paintings. This allows parallel light conditions to be well presented, such as an illumination from inside a room next to a light from the outside. In addition this increases the preservability of the picture.

There is an academic discipline in the way Michael Engelhardt perfects his handicraft: his technique creates transcendency. He often alternates, even in the very same picture, between single-layered prime painting and multi-layered glaze painting. A spatiality is continually created that exceeds the merely central perspective, and which can best be compared with a holography, but which in its atmospheric quality reaches out far beyond this. Atmosphere, a wide variety of perspectives and the relationships between light and shadow in his works reflect an interaction with the conditionality of existence, one which man, and man alone, is capable of: they testify to the attempt to accept them as an allegory, to learn to understand them sensitively, and to risk undergoing transformation.

Light and Shadow

Black, white, bright – what are the rules in the play between light and shadow? Even the perception of this play requires considerable subtlety, not to mention how it is presented and created. One aspect of the art of visualisation is to be able to move and express oneself within harmonic borders. To this day it has remained a constant for Michael Engelhardt to always keep on questioning reality and, through the direct implementation onto the canvas of what has been seen, to guarantee an authenticity in the space-time orientation of which human life shines through in all its uniqueness and unmistakableness, but in its irretrievability as well.

In his painting Michael Engelhardt often devotes himself to the still life, whether in its pure form or in combination with an interior or a landscape. Some of his preferred motifs also include exotic and mythological landscapes, as well as nudes and portraits.