Karl Oppermann (1930 - 2022)

The German artist Karl Oppermann was born in 1930 in Wernigerode, located in the Harz region of Germany. After completing his Abitur (secondary school diploma), he studied art at the University of Fine Arts in West Berlin.

1971 bis 1996

Professorship for Free Painting at the HdK, now University of the Arts, Berlin


Establishment of the “Karl Oppermann Foundation” at the Harz University


Awarded the Medal of Honor of the State of Saxony-Anhalt


Recipient of the Federal Cross of Merit on Ribbon


Oil paintings, collages, graphics, and watercolors

Karl Oppermann’s primary medium was oil painting, yet the lightness of his watercolors also permeated his oil works. Both techniques exhibit a special dynamism that reflects Oppermann’s distinctive style. This characteristic style also extends to his drawings, evoking the brushstrokes of illustrators from the 1920s.



Abstract Period

Aside from his early and brief abstract period between 1952 and 1953, the German artist consistently incorporated representational references into his works. These references were often processed within larger thematic complexes such as ‘Hunters and Hunted,’ ‘boat people,’ ‘the German dream,’ or ‘Que pasa.’

Spain and Italy

In search of a free, expansive landscape to provide a contrast to city life, the German artist turned to southern Spain in the mid-1950s and then, a decade later, to the island of Elba.

Berlin Paintings

Oppermann’s early work reflects a deep engagement with the political and social challenges of his era. Until 1985, his main theme was the city of Berlin within its historical-German context, exploring the contemporary political conflicts that confronted the city.

Humanistic-Christian Approach

He also frequently explored the theme of ‘flight and expulsion.’ Prompted by the significant influx of asylum seekers in 1985/1986 (referred to as ‘boat people’), he created a series of paintings on this subject. These works, which address the experience of flight and expulsion, are now also part of the Karl Oppermann Foundation collection at Harz University in Wernigerode.

Latin America

The painter also drew inspiration from several trips to Latin America. During his first trip to Latin America, which included exhibitions in Bogota and Caracas, a newspaper critique by Luis Freres referred to Oppermann as ‘Prusiano-Latino.’ This term reflects both his deep engagement with Prussian history, stemming from his interest in political-historical enlightenment, and his emotional connection to Spain.

Harz Landscapes

Since then, similar themes have appeared directly or indirectly in his work. After moving from Berlin to a little village called Veckenstedt in 1996, located near his hometown of Wernigerode in the Harz region of Germany, the artist’s focus shifted primarily to the Harz landscape. He frequently depicted the Brocken, the region’s main mountain, and delved into the ‘Blocksberg mystique.’ Additionally, Oppermann explored still life painting, drawing new color inspirations from the diverse nature of the region.

Politics and Art

Karl Oppermann consistently addressed political issues close to his heart through his art. Most notably, in the fall of 2020, a documentary on the theme of ‘Blocksberg’ was released. In this work, he took a clear and uncompromising stand against the right-wing radical developments in Germany.


Veckenstedt, Barcelona, and Elba

In addition to his work in Berlin, Oppermann maintained studios in Elba, Barcelona, and Veckenstedt in the Harz, near his hometown of Wernigerode. It was in Veckenstedt where the German artist lived until his last days.

Karl Oppermann Foundation

In collaboration with Harz University, the German artist established the 'Karl Oppermann Foundation' in 2008, featuring a collection of large-format oil paintings.

This initiative is unique among the universities of applied sciences in the state of Saxony-Anhalt. Oppermann contributed paintings with international themes, which are now accessible to the general public through donation or permanent loan at the Wernigerode University Library. In 2009, the painter expanded the foundation with a portrait of Alexander von Humboldt and a large-format triptych. These paintings explore themes of self-discovery, departure, and the pursuit of happiness, as well as issues such as flight, expulsion, and the struggle for survival.
Homepage of Harz University


German and international museums

  • Jewish Museum Berlin
  • Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation / Kupferstichkabinett Berlin
  • State Museum Bonn
  • Kupferstichkabinett Dresden
  • National Library of Madrid
  • Berlinische Galerie
  • Berlin Museum Foundation

In addition, the works of the German artist can be found in public institutions and banks, such as the Federal Commissioner for the Stasi Records Authority in Magdeburg.


about Karl Oppermann

Wiebke von Bonin, the art critic of Westdeutscher Rundfunk, wrote: ‘And if you really want to get to know Karl Oppermann, take a look at his drawings. With all his spontaneity, he is here, with a sure stroke, he puts a figure on paper, often just a hint of form that the eye effortlessly completes.’ (…) ‘Oppermann’s drawings are a unique medium that he masters ingeniously.’ (Catalog Stiftung Burg Kniphausen, Dr. Wiebke von Bonin – cultural editor of WDR)

In 2015, Michael Freitag wrote the preface for the catalog ‘Pinturas’ for Oppermann’s 85th birthday.

Important texts about Oppermann can also be found in the NBK catalog ‘Berlin Artists of the Present, Issue 7,’ the foreword by Helmut Börsch-Soupan in ‘Berlin Paintings’ 1963-86 by Ernst A. Busche, and in ‘Prusiano Latino’ (biography) by Kerstin Englert.


Solo exhibitions

Karl Oppermann has an extensive history of significant national and international exhibitions. Please note that group exhibitions are not listed here.


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