regional reporter, regional editor, regional painter and regional writer.
The painter Max Köhler was born in Pilsen on 17 November 1942 as the son of a German-Bohemian merchant and a southern French merchant's daughter. After secondary school in Munich and an apprenticeship as a photographer in Karlsruhe and Offenburg in Baden, he studied painting in 1959 and 1962/63 at the Free Academy in Mannheim with Professor Berger-Bergner, a son of the director of the former Imperial Painting Collection in Prague (cf. also Die Kunst der verschollenen Generation (The Art of the Lost Generation) published by Econ in Düsseldorf). After four years as a freelance painter in Berlin from 1963 to 1967, he worked as a photo reporter at the Offenburger Tageblatt and at the Stuttgarter Zeitung (1967-1973), as well as a copy editor at the Badisches Tagblatt and Schwarzwälder Bote. Since 1988 his main occupation has been that of a freelance painter, living today in Schutterwald near Offenburg.
After an expressive early phase of his painterly work in Berlin consisting mainly of portraits, he devoted himself from about the mid-1980s ever more to the landscape of Central Baden. Characteristic for his late style is a vibrantly coloured romantic realism (cf. also Max Köhler – Tradition und Moderne (Max Köhler – Tradition and Modernity) published by Reiff-Schwarzwaldverlag in Offenburg).
Köhler has had about 50 exhibitions in Germany, France, Switzerland and Austria, including at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, at the German Central Bureau for Tourism in Vienna, at the Hans Thoma Museum in Bernau and at the Museum Vogtsbauernhof in Gutach in the Black Forest. From 1983, six-month periods of study in Strasbourg, Freiburg, Aix-en-Provence, Soultz (Upper Alsatia) and Altenburg (Thuringia) interrupted his professional work in the studio. About 70 of his works are owned by public institutions.
Köhler has also been active as an illustrator (Böse Geschichten aus dem Bollenhutland (Evil Stories from Pompon-Hat Land), Wundersame Heimat Ortenau (Wonderful Home Ortenau) and a writer (Liebe (Love), Böse Geschichten aus dem Bollenhutland (Evil Stories from Pompon-Hat Land), Lieben in Straßburg (Loving in Strasbourg) and his autobiography Kraut und Rüben (All Over the Place).
On the whole it can be said that Köhler has a double talent, although in the distribution of these gifts painting was clearly favoured. Here he has succeeded in attaining a mixture of romanticism and vividly coloured, almost sketchy modern art that emphasizes especially the feeling of loneliness (snow paintings). Some have therefore spoken of a Köhler burdened by autism. In any case, one looks in vain for people in his urban and landscape paintings. Portraits from his time in Berlin have an almost investigative character, as if he wanted to reassure himself that he had a species before him to which he was related. Only in later years have Köhler's images developed that cheerful relaxedness characterizing particularly his children's illustrations.
Köhler's numerous pompon-hat paintings are a special chapter. Here, the pompon hat proper seems to play a minor role. Again one has the impression that he is trying to discover on the faces of the women wearing traditional costume signs of human feeling, as if he were feeling his way forward into a strange country. Precisely these precise notations full of yearning, however, are what allow these faces with wonderful expressive power and beauty to emerge.
In my view, words can be excavated from Max Köhler on how we have almost forgotten beauty and longing in the appraisal of modern art of the twentieth century, a century of terrible wars and atrocities. "A yearning for calm and harmony," attested the Lahr art critic Georgis Zwach with regard to Köhler's painting. Today Köhler is regarded worldwide as a revitalizer and modernizer of the painting of traditional costume and folk heritage. This is proven by the approval he enjoys daily at Artoffer, the international internet art portal.
Allow me to close with a thought from the Italian philosopher, Giorgio Agamben, that goes to the heart and fits Köhler's painting admirably. "The silent reticence of a beautiful face is the homeland of humanity." In Köhler's portraits and landscapes we have found our homeland.