Volker Stelzmann (born Dresden 5 November 1940) is a German Painter and Graphic artist.
Volker Stezmann was the third recorded child of a railway official, Kurt Stelzmann, and his wife Charlotte. He was born some eighteen months after a resumption of general European war had been triggered when Europe's two leading dictatorships had launched a military rerun of the Partitions of Poland. Stelzmann's father was killed in the fighting in 1944. Early in 1945 much of Dresden was destroyed by two nights of intensive bombing. Volker Stelzmann survived, but in 1948 the remaining family members relocated to Leipzig which is where Volker Stelzmann grew up and where for more than two decades he would build his artistic and academic career. After leaving middle school, between 1957 and 1960 he undertook an apprenticeship in precision mechanics, continuing with this type of work till 1963. Simultaneously he was attending evening classes at the Leipzig Academy for Visual Arts (HfGuB / Hochschule für Grafik und Buchkunst Leipzig), where he was at this stage taught by Walter Münze (1895-1978).
In 1963 he became a full-time student at the HfGuB where he studied with Gerhard Kurt Müller. He was taught the more basic elements of art and graphic art by Fritz Fröhlich, Hans Mayer-Foreyt and Harry Blume. All this led to his degree in 1968. While he was studying he also had the opportunity to come to terms with the essays of Michel de Montaigne. Two years before he graduated, in 1966 he had his first exhibition, jointly with Ulrich Hatulla. This exhibition took place in Ahrenshoop. Subsequently, his work was included in important exhibitions both within the German Democratic Republic and abroad.
From 1968 he pursued a career as a free-lance artist. He had undertaken the first of several study trips to the Soviet Union in 1966, and during the next few years he was also able to visit Bulgaria, Cuba and India. Between 1970 and 1986 he was a member of the National League of Visual Artists, serving as chairman of the organisation's national executive from 1978. He returned to the HfGuB for post-graduate study in 1973, and was teach9ng there from 1975. He was given a lectureship and appointed a department head at this institution in 1979. In 1982 he became a full professor, and he continued to teach at the HfGuB till 1986.
By the time Stelzmann was grown up the slaughter of war and subsequent large-scale emigration from East Germany had left the country increasingly short of working-age population and after 1961 the government created an increasingly sophisticated set of systems and controls to prevent its remaining citizens from escaping. Travel privileges based on his artistic status nevertheless gave Stolzmann the opportunity to "escape" in 1986 when he returned from an exhibition in Oberhausen (in West Germany) not to the German Democratic Republic but to the enclave of West Berlin which was outside the control of the East German government. Remaining in the west, between 1987 and 1988 he held a guest professorship at the Städelschule (fine arts academy) in Frankfurt am Main. In 1988 he was appointed Professor for Painting at the Berlin Fine Arts Academy (as it was then called). This prompted a protest from the painter Georg Baselitz who now resigned his own teaching position at the university, condemning Stelzmann as a "party-line East German artist". (Baselitz, like Stelzmann, had begun his artistic career in the German Democratic Republic, although he had made his own "escape to the west", after falling foul of the country's political rulers, back in 1958.) Stelzmann retained his professorship at the Berlin University of the Arts (as the Fine Arts Academy had by now become) till 2006.
Volker Stelzmann continues to work in Berlin-Charlottenburg where he lives with his wife Henriette whom he married in 1988. His works continue to feature in exhibitions, and despite his defection back in 1986, his work has continued to be celebrated in Leipzig.
Awards and honours (not necessarily a complete list)
- 1978: Art Prize of the German Democratic Republic
- 1983: National Prize of East Germany for Arts and Literature 3rd class