Hans Reichel (1892-1958)

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Hans Reichel was born in Würzburg on August 9, 1892, at a time marked by artistic revolutions, war and social unrest. Reichel was attracted both to painting and writing. He earned his living by writing small feature articles and became acquainted with Rilke, whose poetic mysticism impressed him. In 1918 Reichel attended a school of modern art for a short time. His encounter with Paul Klee in 1919, when both artists had a studio at castle Werneck in Munich, was very decisive and until 1927 they were inseparable, sharing their love of music, and often discussing its relevance to painting.

Following the death of the love of his life, he moved in grief to Paris and lived  the rest of his life in a small cheap hotel room.  He was known for his mercurial personality.  Sensitive and gentle when sober, he was prone to violent, deranged outbursts when drunk. His close friend Henry Miller dreaded the alcoholic rages, but admired Reichel’s talent and devotion to his art. He would later regard the watercolor lessons Reichel gave him as “life therapy”. A description of Reichel’s ground-floor studio appears in “The Cosmological Eye”:

……..when you enter his room, which is in a cheap hotel where he does his work, the sanctity of the place breaks you down. It is not quite a hovel, his little den, but it is perilously close to being one. You cast your eye about the room and you see that the walls are covered with his paintings. The paintings themselves are holy. This is a man, you cannot help thinking, who has never done anything for gain.

The association of Reichel with a “cosmological eye” is due to the frequent inclusion of eye-like designs in his paintings, of which he said, “I want that the pictures should look back at me; if I look at them and they don’t look at me too then they are no good.” Miller also wrote movingly of Reichel in the “Henry Miler Reader”, page 307.

Compared to Klee's work, Reichel's work was less influenced by academically elaborated experiments, anything objective, calculating, ironic and all caricature were alien to him. The artist's stayed in contact even when Klee went to the Bauhaus.

From 1939 onwards, Hans Reichel was interned in various camps until he managed to escape and return to Paris in 1944. After the end of the war the artist continued to develop his art.

Hans Reichel died in Paris on December 7, 1958. His work was honored in a comprehensive exhibition shown in Cologne and at the Hanover "Kestner Gesellschaft" in 1960. In 2005 the "Museum im Kulturspeicher" in Wuerzburg showed a retrospective entitled "Ordnung und Chaos.” 

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