Peter Dreher (born 1932, Mannheim) is a German artist and was a highly regarded Professor of Painting. From 1950-1965 he studied at the Staatlichen Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Karlsruhe under Karl Hubbuch, Wilhelm Schnarrenberger and Erich Heckel. 1954 he had his first solo exhibition at the Städtischen Kunsthalle Mannheim. Through teaching he has influenced a whole generation of painters amongst others Anselm Kiefer, Friedemann Hahn and Dellbrügge & De Moll.
In the 1950’s Dreher went to the art academy in Karlsruhe. His professors were all teaching painting in a figurative style. Both Karl Hubbuch and Wilhelm Schnarrenberger were part of the “Neue Sachlichkeit” New Objectivity. Just like his professors, Dreher never separates painting from its mimetical reproductive function - he thereby inscribes himself into a classical painting tradition – but only partially because he abstains from the epical story. Instead he searches to cancel the dichotomy between reproduction and reality. Dreher paints in a realistic style using monochrome colours.
Since his first still life of a hering, Dreher always returns to this kind of painting – a glass, a conserves, snapsbottle, alarmclock, nail scissors. Also landscape is a beloved motif of Dreher, especially that of the Black Forest (Schwarzwald).
For many years Dreher followed his own way thus going against the stream in German and international painting.
The trends of the 1960’s and 1970’s were many and very different: Abstract Expressionism, Minimalism, Postminimalism, Performance art, Pop Art, Action Painting , Color field painting and fluxus amongst others. Dreher’s style in these years remain realistic and figurative, and there are certain similarities to pop art. In 1979 he paints both statements as well as Mickey Mouse, dividing the canvas into several squares painting the same motif in each of them – not unlike Andy Warhol or Malcolm Morley, who utilized the squaring of photograhies, in the beginning of the 1970’s. The benefits to pop-art in regard to the object and reflection of the motif is clear –Andy Warhol, the early Jim Dine, Wayne Thiebaud but also to Nicolas de Staël. But Dreher was not aware of this himself. It was not until the year 1964 he discovered works by Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol and Claes Oldenburg in Venice.
In the late 1970’s and early 1980’s painters such as Martin Kippenberger, Jörg Immendorff, A.R. Penck all part of the group Neue Wilde or Junge Wilde as they were also called, painted in no one particular style but everything from abstract, expressive, representational, figurative, borderline surrealistic paintings and photorealistic. They did not paint in monochrome- but in bright and intense colours. What also differs from Dreher is the imaginary setting, the epic stories and the anticonformist ideas. Dreher’s realistic style seemed very out of date.
Since the late 1990’s the New Leipzig School has again brought figurative painting on everyones mind. Most of these painters are in their early thirtees and they share a devotion to literal, descriptive figurative painting. So yet again the descriptive figurative painting has become "en vogue". One may say that Dreher’s style was modern, then very unmodern only to become modern again. He has never changed his style to satisfy any need.
Dreher works with the passing of time and thereby shares a place in arthistory with the likes of On Kawara or Roman Opalka who also works with the theme of time in series made over a lifetime, and with young artists like Tomma Abts who goes similar ways as Dreher.
Where progress, innovation and new ways of thinking is normally accredited in the art world, Dreher has always wanted to do the opposite – the stagnant. It is painting only for the sake of painting that interesests him – l’art pour l’art.
With a series consisting of approximately 4400 works to date, Peter Dreher does away with the apparent duality of “representational” and “abstract”. The infinite variation of one and the same object shows that realism is a question of pure painting
Uncertainty, disbelief and at the same time certainty that the painting has to be an impulse coming from one self - that is the idea behind the series. Dreher tries to represent the glass as exact, as accurate and truthful as possible. He wanted to do something that went against the norms in society, something that is totally unsellable and unattractive.
Dreher doesn’t really find time to be of great importance. Time is something we ourselves have created. If there were no clocks, we would have another way of dealing with time – and that is also a point, Dreher wants to make in this series. He calls our understanding of time a “timedictatorship”.
Dreher is also influenced by the likes of Edmund Husserl (phenomenology). Husserl thought that our understanding of the world is disrupted from our memories and experiences. Instead we should look at the world without any preconceptions. This is what Dreher tries to do in “Day by day…”. Every time he paints the glass, he tries to perceive it without any preconceptions.
Henry Miller, Jean Paul Sartre and socialistic-communist ideas have also been of great importance to Dreher.
2004 Phenomenon of Time, Gallery sphn (Herrmann & Wagner), with Thorsten Hallscheidt, Berlin, Germany
2003 Clothed and Unclosed, The Athenaeum, La Jolla, California, USA; Real, Mark Quint Contemporary Art, San Diego, California, USA
2002 Die langen Kurzblicke, Galerie sphn (Herrmann & Wagner), Berlin, Germany; Dreher_früher, Städtische Galerie, Freiburg, Germany
2001 Galerie S65, Aalst, Belgium
2000 Patricia Sweetow Gallery, San Francisco, California, USA; Tag um Tag ist guter Tag, Galerie sphn, (Herrmann & Wagner), Berlin, Germany
1998 Mark Quint Contemporary Art, La Jolla, California, USA; Monique Knowlton Gallery, New York, USA; Staatliche Akademie der Bildenden Künste Karlsruhe, Germany
1997 Galerie von Braunbehrens, Munich, Germany; Räume für Neue Kunst Rolf Hengesbach, Wuppertal, Germany; Kunstverein Esslingen, Germany
1995 Galerie Krohn, Badenweiler, Germany
1993 Badischer Kunstverein Karlsruhe, Germany; Quint-Krichmann-Projects, The La Jolla Gallery, California, USA
1992 Galerie Wehr, Stuttgart, Germany
1991 Kunstverein Konstanz, Germany
1990 Städtische Kunsthalle, Mannheim; Museum für Neue Kunst, Freiburg, Germany; Galerie Hans Mayer, Düsseldorf, Germany
1987 Galerie Kilchberg , Basel Land, Switzerland
1983 Kunstverein Ludwigshafen, Germany
1982 Von der Heydt-Museum, Wuppertal, Germany
1979 Museum Schloß Morsbroich, Leverkusen, Germany
1977 Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden, Germany
1975 Kunstverein Freiburg, Germany
1974 Museum Folkwang, Essen, Germany; Landesmuseum Oldenburg, Germany
1954 Städtische Kunsthalle Mannheim, Germany
Books: „Ich Mich“ available at the gallery HERRMANN 6 WAGNER in Berlin