Jörg Immendorff is born in 1945 in Bleckede, near Lüneburg, Germany. He starts his studies at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf with a focus on stage art, but joins the class of Joseph Beuys from 1964 to 1966. His text-pictures situate themselves as moral emblems, unmasking advertisement, political realities, and bourgeois everyday life (Milde Sorte, 1964; Pass (Deutsche Farben), 1965; Hapmi lieb, 1966). Immendorf links painting with critical and satirical Actions (Hört auf zu malen!1966). Within the context of Fluxus and the German student movement, he participates in Performances, for example in the anarchic Lidl Actions taking place between 1968 and 1970. From 1968 until 1980 Immendorf works as an art teacher in Düsseldorf and participates in the Documenta 5 (1972) and 7 (1982). He also teaches at the Kunsthochschule in Hamburg (1982/83), the Werkkunstschule in Cologne, and, starting in 1998, he teaches at the Städel-Schule in Frankfurt.
A decisive moment for Immendorff’s work is his meeting with artist A.R. Penck in 1976 – Penck was living in Dresden at the time. During the same year he creates hisBrechtserie (Fragen eines lesenden Arbeiters). In these works that fuse picture and text, his familiarity with the political language and proceedings of Brechtian stage art clearly manifests itself. In the following year, Penck and Immendorff decide to forge a »German-German« alliance for joint works and Actions (Immendorff besucht Y, 1979). In a monumental, 16-part picture series Immendorff finally treats the theme of a divided Germany. This return to the painting of historical motifs and events represents a turn to the human figure and to figural narratives, comparable to the works of Baselitz. Political symbols and components of traditional iconography create dramatic motifs in expressionistic, urban night scenarios of his Café Deutschland paintings (1978 — 82). Since 1984 his pictures have been shown in numerous, large museum exhibitions, for example in Hamburg, Oxford, Vienna, Rotterdam, den Haag, and Paris (1993).
Since 1977 Immendorff has also worked as a sculptor. His sculptures, characterized by expressive gestures and political-iconographic motifs, are mostly done in painted wood or bronze (Versuch, Hammer zu werden, 1987; Auf die Wiedervereinigung, 1989; Malertod II, 1990). With his sculpture Elbquelle – it is 25 m high – his most monumental work so far is created in Riesa in 1999. Yet Immendorff also keeps working for the theatre, and in 1994 he does the stage setting and the costumes for Igor Stravinsky’s opera »A Rake’s Progress« at the Salzburg Festival.
Immendorff has been a professor at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf since 1996. After 1998 his work undergoes a further change. His mostly untitled pictures free themselves from a narrative context, and figural arrangements appear in front of an ornamental or a dark, monochrome background; enigmatic ciphers and citational references to art history, for example to the graphics of Baldung Griens, become part of the composition. In 2005 there is a comprehensive retrospective in the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin.
Jörg Immendorff dies 2007 in Düsseldorf.
Jörg Immendorff. Male Lago: Ausst.-Kat. Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, hg. v. Anette Hüsch und Peter-Klaus Schuster, Köln 2005
Immendorff, Bilder: Ausst.-Kat. Museum am Ostwall Dortmund, hg v. Tayfun Belgin, Dortmund 2000
Jörg Immendorff. Bild mit Geduld: Ausst.-Kat. Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, Wolfsburg 1996
Immendorff. Malerei 1983 — 1990: Ausst.-Kat. Galerie der Stadt Esslingen, Villa Merkel, Museum moderner Kunst Wien, Stuttgart 1991
Jörg Immendorff. Café Deutschland: Ausst.-Kat. Kunstmuseum, Basel 1979