School of Rauch: Four New German Painters to Watch

Kristina Schultz: Paris (2011): All images courtesy the artists.Kristina Schultz: Paris (2011): All images courtesy the artists.

By Nadja Sayej

In Leipzig, Germany – or “Little Paris,” as Goethe coined it – there is a thriving painting scene referred to as the New Leipzig School, which has been spearheaded by German superstar Neo Rauch. When you visit this quaint, small city, which is two hours outside of Berlin, you’ll find that Rauch is everywhere. Not literally, of course - the reclusive artist declines many interviews - but, he is all over the CVs of young artists coming out of Leipzig as one of their teachers.

“Professor Rauch”, as several of his students call him, is a surrealist, political painter who spent years teaching at the Leipzig Art Academy, from which he stepped down a few years ago. While he used to teach undergraduates, he now teaches a private master’s painting class with roughly five students a semester. There is no sign-up form or website to visit to apply for the class; it is all done privately and between friends. Rauch has no e-mail address and his students won’t give out his cell phone number to journalists. “I see it as a way to honour his work,” said one artist, who preferred to remain anonymous.

This rising, Gen-Y group of Leipzig painters are redefining the “New Leipzig School” painting traditions, making them into something a little spunkier. Although a few of Rauch’s students declined interviews, those we spoke to all said the same thing: That Rauch pushed them to get over their fears of becoming great painters. Here are four diverse painters taught by Rauch who are worth watching.

Christian Herzig: Rauschen (2010)Christian Herzig: Rauschen (2010)

Christian Herzig

Born: 1975

Star moment: His 2010 debut solo exhibition at the Galerie Kleindienst, which featured small, delicious, yet lonely, pieces.

How and what he paints: Simple, luscious landscapes with dreamy palm trees swallowed up by big skies. He was probably a hard-edge minimalist in a past life. He does not clutter his canvases; rather, he lets them breathe.

File next to: Cake icing, mysterious romances abroad, flakiness (in a good way).


Kristina Schultz: Disco Girl (2011).Kristina Schultz: Disco Girl (2011).

Kristina Schuldt

Born: 1982

Star moment: Right now, actually. Schuldt has a solo exhibition at the prestigious Potemka Gallery in Leipzig, and just wrapped up shows in Hamburg and Amsterdam.

How and what she paints: Blocky feminist creatures struggling with inner demons while surrounded by big rainbows and trendsetting backdrops. There is always a dollop of colour and, sometimes, fluorescent lights.

File next to: Art Nouveau lamps, Studio 54, Ayn Rand.

What she learned from Rauch: “The most important thing Neo taught me is that to be a painter or an artist is a decision for life, a mission. And, when you paint, you are free.”


Robert Seidel: ACAB Mixing Technique (2009).Robert Seidel: ACAB Mixing Technique (2009).

Robert Seidel

Born: 1983

Star moment: In 2009, when he took his work to the Art Center Nabi in Seoul where he showed his minimalist masterpieces.

How and what he paints: Small-town folk meets lonesome trendsetters obsessed with toys and miniature worlds. He paints architecture-inspired, understated landscapes that defy tradition and play with scale that questions maturity and the limitations of fun.

File next to: Nintendo, Douglas Coupland, Peter Pan, the drawing board.


Carolin Wendel: Armleuchter (2010).Carolin Wendel: Armleuchter (2010).

Carolin Wendel

Born: 1978

Star moment: A solo show last year at the Spinnerei warehouses, where a community of almost 50 artists, including Rauch, work and hang out. Be sure to check out her *elektrisch orthodox* performance collective - it’s sort of like sexy Leizpig Painters Gone Wild.

How and what she paints: Wendel approaches the canvas like it’s a battlefield between heaven and hell. Armed with magic between each stroke, she is fierce like Kimora Lee Simmons, but sentimental in an Oprah “I-told-you-so” way that forces viewers to consider her work further.

File next to: Courtney Love, the Nutcracker Suite, Magical Surrealism, PMS pills.

What she learned from Rauch: “Neo always said that who is not able to cook, can’t paint. Gourmet.”


Nadja SayejNadja Sayej is the host of ArtStars and is out to uncover the Seven Unsolved Mysteries of the Art World — one country, one art scene at a time, Gonzo-style. She writes for the Globe and Mail and the New York Times, as well as a monthly column for EnRoute magazine. Follow her adventures at