Wolfgang Degenhardt

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Wolfgang Degenhardt (19 May 1924 – 8 November 1993) was an artist, prominent in Newcastle located in the Hunter Region of New South Wales, Australia. Husband of Irene Degenhardt, who still lives in Newcastle today.

Degenhardt was born in Germany, studied art in Bremen and Milan. He migrated to Greta, New South Wales in the Hunter Valley in January 1955, with his wife Irene and sons Fred and Alex after the second world war. Shortly after arriving in Australia. He worked at BHP steel works, in the coke ovens as part of the immigration program at the time, which required people to work for two years in an industry chosen by the Australian Government. A year after arriving in Australia, he built his own home on Warners Bay Road, Charlestown. It was hard work, as the acre block he selected, was dense Australian bush land. To clear the block he used hand saws and an axe. He built the home with a small loan from the Commonwealth Bank, coming home after his shift at BHP to cut timbers and paint. The house has remained relatively unchanged to this day.

Over the years he presented his paintings to every man who retired from the steal works, with art supplies given to him by BHP, he became very well known for this. He worked for the BHP for 30 years, retiring only a few years before his passing.

Degenhardt won the inaugural Newcastle Art Prize and was a regional winner of Maitland Art Prize. He presented a one-man exhibitions at Barry Stern Galleries 1968, Sydney and Lights Gallery, Newcastle 1963. He was a frequent contributor to the Blake Prize for Religious Art. He is represented in many private collections throughout the world.

Degenhardt was featured within newspapers, journals and on NBN and ABC television as his artwork became prominent. He painted in many different styles including German impressionism, cartoons, landscapes.

There are two drawings in the Newcastle Region Art Gallery's collection.

The Forgotten I. 1963

  • triptych
  • pen, black ink wash and red pastel on paper
  • sight measurements - left to right 38.1 x 17.8 cm, 41.5 x 11.1 cm, 38.1 x 17.8 cm
  • inscribed on left and centre sheet lower right and lower left on right sheet in ink "Degenhardt/63"
  • executed in the autumn of 1963 at Charlestown, New South Wales
  • Purchased from "Wolfgang Degenhardt" exhibition catalogue number 26 on 21 June 1963 by Gil Docking at Lights Gallery, Newcastle, New South Wales
  • accession number 1963.021
  • Gallery's Comment - Black pen and ink drawing with red pastel on wet paper. Figure expression composition, executed in trptych form.

Victim III. 1972

  • pen,ink wash and red conte crayon on paper
  • sheet size 53.0 x 72.3 cm
  • inscribed lower left in ink "Degenhardt/72"
  • executed in May 1972 at the artist's house Charlestown, NSW
  • Purchased from the exhibition "Hunter Valley Artists" catalogue number 28, at Newcastle City Art Gallery 1 September to 1 October 1972
  • accession number 1972.056
  • Gallery's Comment - One of a group of three drawings, "Victim I - III", shown in the exhibition and completed early 1972. They have a general relationship to such contemporary events as the Vietnam War and the Bangladesh tragedy, but do not relate to any one event in particular. They present a general view of man's inhumanity to man in the world of today. But it is not just a view of sorrow. There is some beauty too. Beauty in the lives of the human figures and particularly in the hands and their expressive qualities. Forms and features are over emphasised to heighten expression and feeling. Colours are restricted to black and white to give a stronger effect, with red conte added as a softener and enlivening touch. (verbal information from the artist 19 September 1972)

Irene, born in Cologne, Germany. A writer for the Mavis Branson show, met Wolfgang whilst traveling in the war years. She was responsible for organising his gallery appearances and named many of his works.