* 1897 Osnabrück
† 1981 Köln
Friedrich Vordemberge was born in Osnabrück in 1897 and trained at the Weimar Art Academy but his studies were interrupted by the first world war. In 1919 he continued training at the Berlin Art Academy under Lovis Corinth and at the Düsseldorf Academy, where he took courses from Heinrich Nauen, a leading exponent of Rhineland Expressionism. Early in 1920 Vordemberge was hired as a stage-scenery designer and deputy director of the Rheinische Landesbühne Theatre in Düren. Following stays in Bremen and Worpswede, trips outside Germany to study art on site and participation in exhibitions, Vordemberge settled in Cologne in 1924, where he founded Kölner Maler [Cologne Painters], which arranged exhibitions for the painters belonging to the association. The second world war disrupted Vordemberge's development as an artist since his studio was destroyed in a bombing raid and he had to seek a new home in Honnef. On his return to Cologne, Vordemberge organised the Rhineland artists' association 'Köln 1945'. Preserving his detached stance towards contemporary art movements even during the 1950s, Vordemberge continued to evolve his own representational style. His media and themes of choice were landscapes in oils, still lifes, beach and sailing boat scenes. Vordemberge's woodcut series featured the clown motif. His oil paintings, executed in a vibrant palette, are stringently composed, notable for a treatment of geometric elements reminiscent of Cubism. Vordemberge reduced representational motifs to basic forms with a simplicity that tended to religious symbolism. Extensive travel in the Mediterranean and a stay for study at the Villa Massimo in 1971 satisfied Vordemberge's yearnings for southern landscapes, influencing his style and giving rise to deftly and subtly executed landscape watercolours and pastels that capture mood and atmospheric quality.
In 1947 Vordemberge was appointed to teach at the Cologne Werkschulen and became director in 1959. Vordemberge was made a professor in 1961 and founded a studio for students at Vinci. Even after his retirement Vordemberge continued to teach painting at the Cologne Polytechnic for Art and Design from 1974. Two years after Friedrich Vordemberge's death in 1981, the Museum Ludwig mounted a grand retrospective to honour this artist, who contributed so much to recent Cologne and Rhineland art.