Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau: The Painter

 Comments and Opinions  Fischer-Dieskau: Selbst 1990

Fischer-Dieskau: Selbst 1990

Painting is another of Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau's secondary interests that has developed into something rather more than just a hobby. His interest in painting goes back to his childhood, but he says that he didn't begin to paint seriously until around 1960. As is the case with his other activities, Fischer-Dieskau has proven to be a prolific painter, but this remained largely hidden from the public until 1980, when some of his paintings were displayed for the first time in an exhibition in Bamberg.

Cover Ausstellungskatalog Bamberg

That he was interested in painting became known to the English-speaking public for the first time through Gerald Moore's memoirs, AM I TOO LOUD?, and the public's first glimpse of Fischer-Dieskau the painter was most likely the portrait of Gerald Moore that was included in the liner notes of the EMI recording of Moore's farewell concert in 1967.

Fischer-Dieskau: Gerald Moore   Fischer-Dieskau: Jörg Demus  Fischer-Dieskau: Sviatoslav Richter

 Gerald Moore

 Jörg Demus 1979

 Slava Richter 1982

Subsequently, record collectors encountered a series of Fischer-Dieskau's watercolors that served as cover art for DG's series of reissued recordings in honor of Fischer-Dieskau's 60th birthday in 1985.

Fischer-Dieskau: Paul Hindemith 

 Hindemith 1984

Since his exhibition debut in 1980, Fischer-Dieskau's paintings have been displayed frequently in Germany, Austria, France, and Japan. The most recent exhibition was in June 2000 at the Galerie Dietz in Potsdam.

The intellectual curiosity, versatility, and productivity that characterize Fischer-Dieskau in the other aspects of his artistic life are also present in his painting. He works in a variety of media (ink, watercolor, pastel, oil, acrylic), in both representational and non-representational forms, and in a variety of styles. Those who have seen his work have especially remarked on his striking portraits, including those of Sviatoslav Richter, Alfred Brendel, and Julia Varady, but there are also landscapes, and many abstract works where the emphasis is on line and color.

Fischer-Dieskau: Terrasse 

 Terrasse im Regen 1980

In addition, there are many self-portraits, going back as far as an early drawing of himself as a 16-year-old. His own models, inspriations, and favorites among painters range widely: Moreau, Courbet, Klee, Beckmann, Janssen, and Gerhard Richter, to name just a few. When asked, as he frequently is, about the connection between his painting and his music, he tends to minimize it, seeing painting as an art that appeals to entirely different senses and calls upon a different aspect of his artistic personality, yet quite a number of his paintings have musical themes.

Fischer-Dieskau: Mutter  

 Portrait der Mutter 1965

 Beim Nähen 1981

Those who see Fischer-Dieskau's paintings may be attracted or repelled by them, but anyone who sees them must be convinced of the seriousness of his devotion to this art. He is, as art historian Werner Spiess observed, anything but a "Sunday painter." But who would have expected anything different?


Comments and Opinions

  • "The age of reproduction has not yet managed to render invalid the originality of a work of art. There is a deep and lasting need within us to see ourselves in art, a sort of challenge, but also a confirmation that cannot be imitated or replaced by any other reality." (Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Reverberations)
  • "Following a memory from my childhood, I have collected the entire spectrum of art history in illustrations, which I have organized so that all the works are easy to find." There are many truths; therefore there is no truth" stated Nietzsche, and art provides the proof. One comes close to the conclusion that our everyday life, the so-called reality, is actually only a construct secured by custom and consent, one of a number of possibilities. Otherwise there would be no history of seeing, no development in art, just reproductions of an eternal sameness." (Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Zeit eines Lebens)
  • "The immediate translation of his own ideas into symbolical form proved at least to be irrestible. The decision came after visitng an exhibition of works by Paul Klee, the swiss painter, in Berlin in 1960. The "play of colors" there exercised an enormous spell on him. Just as he tells young singers that the most important lesson is to "learn by listening," so he too began to "learn by looking." It seems remarkable that Fischer-Dieskau, whenever he writes or speaks about painting, tries, like every outside observer, to build first of all a bridge between his profession as a singer and that of a painter." (Hans A. Neunzig, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau: A Biography)
  • "What he brings to personal expression here takes place in the context a freedom that doesn't need to take account of taste or opinions, because the significance of his painting lies ulimately in the fact that this painting has to exist. One of his first remarks in his studio still rings in my ears: It is a case of a very serious occupation. And he added that this work at the easel had in the meantime made itself so autonomous that he couldn't live without it any longer. He spoke of "an activity constant over time." This existential statement must touch anyone who stands before these works. For what can move a person like him, who is a bringer of happiness like no other, to seek out an additional happiness? It is the singer's fear of time running out. In his studio, all this came together in a profound impression: this is not the place of a Sunday painter who is looking something to while away the time." (Werner Spiess, "Das Nichterlebte ersetzen")


herausgegeben von: Monika Wolf, 1999-2021

translations and compilations: Celia A. Sgroi, January 2004