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Albert Birkle

Biographies
Albert Birkle

*  1900 Berlin
† 1986 Salzburg


Albert Birkle was born the first son of an artist family in Berlin-Charlottenburg and began an apprenticeship as a decorative painter in his father's business after world war I. Between 1920 and 1925 Birkle studied at the academy in Berlin and was admitted as the youngest member to the 'Berliner Sezession' and the 'Preußische Akademie der Künste', chaired by Max Liebermann. During his years of study Birkle formed a religiously-sociocritical realism with elements from the New Objectivity, which adopted cartoon-like moments especially in his wilful striking heads. In 1924 Birkle married Elisabeth Starosta, an exponent of the decorative and applied arts. He turned down a professorial appointment to the Königsberg Academy to be able to execute orders for church murals et al. in Gaislingen and Kattowitz. He already moved to Salzburg in 1932. During the 1930s the tendency to pointed social criticism that had hitherto informed Birkle's work gave way to an atmospheric quality expressive of mood in his landscapes and industry-motifs. The same paintings, with which Birkle represented Germany at the Biennale in Venice in 1936, were removed before the opening of an exhibition at the Haus der Deutschen Kunst in Munich in 1937 and several other paintings were confiscated as 'degenerate'. At the beginning of world war II., Birkle volunteered for labour service to temporarily save himself from military service. As a war painter the assured pacifist executed a fresco at the barracks in Glasenbach and was sent to France as a war correspondent. In 1946 Birkle was naturalised in Austria and began to work on decorative cycles of windows with religious subject matter. Birkle is regarded as a pioneer of the modern 'dalle [flag] glass' technique, which he continued to develop. In 1958 he was appointed professor. The 1950's and 60's were filled with an intensive creativity in glass painting. Several important works and window cycles with a religious-decorative form came into existence. His late paintings and drawings are Expressionist in character. In them he looked back to 1920s and '40s motifs and sociocritical tendencies and he saw himself as a 'chronicler of his times'. He also used Biblical representations as a vehicle for making critical statements about the present. Birkle died in Salzburg on 29 January 1986.