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The Rubens Prize of the City of Siegen
and the Lambrecht-Schadeberg Collection

A world-famous Baroque painter, 14 prize winners and over 60 years of exhibition history. Since its foundation, the Rubens Prize has been an exciting part of Siegen’s city history and provides a European perspective on painting. Discover the background to the history of the Rubens Prize, its famous prize-winners, and the special Lambrecht-Schadeberg Collection!
The accompanying audio files are only available in German.

Siegen, Birthplace of
Peter Paul Rubens

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Peter Paul Rubens, Selbstbildnis, 1625, Verein der Freunde und Förderer des Siegerlandmuseums e. V., Siegerlandmuseum in Siegen’s “Upper Palace”, Photo: Philipp Ottendörfer

The name of the Rubens Prize of the City of Siegen derives from the painter Peter Paul Rubens, who was born in 1577 in the Oberstadt area of Siegen. One of the most sought-after and successful Baroque artists, his works are well-known all over the world. He was highly esteemed as a painter at the court of the Spanish king and also active as a diplomat, working for peace between Spain and England during the Thirty Years’ War. A wealthy and respected man, Rubens died in Antwerp at the age of 63.


The Rubens Prize of the City of Siegen

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Hans Hartung, Poster of the Prize winner exhibition, 1958

Since 1957, the Rubens Prize of the City of Siegen has been awarded every five years to important European painters or graphic artists. The selection is made by a changing jury comprising various individuals with a close link to the current art scene.

The Rubens Prize was the first international award to be established in Germany after the Second World War, aiming to serve the “promotion of reciprocal cultural relations between countries”, as can be read in the statutes of 1958.
Since 2002, the artists presented with the award for their life’s work have received not only prize money but also a catalogue and a major solo exhibition at MGKSiegen.

The Lambrecht-Schadeberg Collection

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At the start of the 1990s, Barbara Lambrecht-Schadeberg began to build up a private art collection bringing together key paintings, drawings, and prints as well as photographs and sculptures by all the Rubens Prize winners of the City of Siegen. The principle of the collection is to collect a wide range of different works of art representative of the prizewinners’ entire œuvres and reflect various phases of their work.

The Lambrecht-Schadeberg Collection now comprises over 300 works. As a permanent loan, a changing selection of these works of art is exhibited regularly at the MGKSiegen. Works by all the artists who have received the Rubens Prize of the City of Siegen are thus displayed on a permanent basis.

Rubens Prize Winners
1957 Hans Hartung
1962 Giorgio Morandi
1967 Francis Bacon
1972 Antoni Tàpies
1977 Fritz Winter
1982 Emil Schumacher
1987 Cy Twombly
1992 Rupprecht Geiger
1997 Lucian Freud
2002 Maria Lassnig
2007 Sigmar Polke
2012 Bridget Riley
2017 Niele Toroni
2022 Miriam Cahn

Hans Hartung

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In 1957, Hans Hartung (*1904 in Leipzig, †1989 in Antibes) was the first painter to receive the Rubens Prize of the City of Siegen. The jury paid tribute to an artist whose work is organic, reduced to forms and colours. On a light, almost translucent background, he applied dense bundles of lines and hatching that converge at the centre of the image or push toward the edges of the canvas.

In later works, the paint was applied with the help of a spray technique using tools he sometimes constructed himself, resulting in cloud-like formations. For Hartung, this type of painting was a way of expressing inner feelings that the artist wished to capture in the image. Although he regularly made precise drawings for his earlier works, the painter nevertheless understood his paintings as an immediate and spontaneous testimony to his personal emotions. Hartung’s reflexive painting and subconscious gesture were a new and different form of language, allowing him to express his feelings. As a result, his painting during the period after the Second World War was considered groundbreaking for many subsequent artists.

Giorgio Morandi

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“The only interest evoked in me by the visible world is concerned with space, light, colours and shapes.”
Giorgio Morandi

The Italian painter Giorgio Morandi (*1890 in Bologna, †1964 in Bologna) is known for his still lifes and paintings of landscapes. Throughout his life, he devoted himself to depicting simple, everyday objects such as bottles, jugs, vases and bowls. On the canvas, he repeatedly created fresh arrangements using these vessels, so that no two paintings resembled each other despite showing similar objects. They all bear the same title: “Natura Morta”, in English “Still Life”. In these works, we immediately find a concentrated calm and reduction to essential forms and delicate colours. Morandi’s pictures are simple, almost minimalist representations.

The painter also retained the title of the landscape depictions, which was “Paesaggio”, i.e. “Landscape”. These are rather small-format pictures reflecting the essentials of the Italian landscape around Morandi’s home: The earthy tones of nature in interplay with the warm, Mediterranean colours of the houses create a harmonious image of the painter’s environment.
The artist was awarded the Rubens Prize of the city of Siegen in 1962 for his clear, eloquent painting.

Francis Bacon

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Francis Bacon (*1909 in Dublin, †1992 in Madrid) is regarded as one of the most important artists of representational painting in the 20th century. Internationally, he is known above all for his portraits of people, which often appear threatening and eerie.

Francis Bacon was the third winner of the Rubens Prize in 1967. The jury praised him for his “powerful and haunting imagination”, which he sometimes captured on canvas with the help of objects such as brooms and scrubbing brushes. Using these rather unconventional tools of painting, the artist created colour-intense depictions of distorted bodies and terrifying faces.
The Lambrecht-Schadeberg Collection includes six paintings, and thus the MGKSiegen now houses a key collection of Francis Bacon’s work in mainland Europe.


Antoni Tàpies

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The Spanish artist Antoni Tàpies (*1923 in Barcelona, †2012 in Barcelona) was the fourth Rubens Prize winner of the City of Siegen, receiving the award in 1972. The Lambrecht-Schadeberg Collection includes both paintings and sculptures by the artist. His work is striking for its use of very different materials, some of which are unusual for painting, such as sand, textiles or powdered marble. In this way, he created an art rich in contrasts, characterized by elevations and depressions. In terms of colour, Tàpies oriented his painting towards the earthy tones of nature and used brown tones, ochre, grey and black for his works.

Signs, mathematical formulae and scripts, some of which seem mysterious, are applied onto an often tranquil, two-dimensional background by scratching them into the almost dry paint layer. They are reminiscent of hieroglyphics, but also include universally understood symbols such as the cross, stars or the silhouette of a bird. They appear enigmatic in their composition; each sign may be charged with meaning and refer, for example, to traces of man from past eras. 

Fritz Winter

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The non-representational paintings by artist Fritz Winter (*1905 in Altenbögge, †1976 in Herrsching am Ammersee) focus on shapes and colours. He repeatedly rearranged these in his works, thus leaving behind a versatile and multifaceted œuvre. In his artistic work, he drew on experiences and encounters with other artists such as Paul Klee or Wassily Kandinsky, whom he had met as his teachers during his studies at the State Bauhaus in Dessau at the end of the 1920s.

Winter’s best-known works include the series of paintings “Triebkräfte der Erde” (Driving Forces of the Earth), which he created during home leave as a soldier in the Second World War in 1944. These small-format oil paintings on paper are abstract representations of Winter’s experiences during the war. They appear organic and sometimes resemble dreamlike figures of light. In this respect, they are not true representations of wartime events, but reflect Winter’s perspective on his surroundings during his time as a soldier.
Fritz Winter received the Rubens Prize of the City of Siegen posthumously in 1977.

Emil Schumacher

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Emil Schumacher (*1912 in Hagen, †1999 in San José) was awarded the Rubens Prize in 1982. His artistic success may be noted from his participation in the art exhibitions documenta II, III and IV (1959, 1964, 1976) in Kassel. Schumacher began his career as an artist after the Second World War and was successful with non-representational painting. He understood painting as a process and executed his brushstrokes – as well as carvings in the paint or hatching – spontaneously on the canvas.

The painterly gesture as a creative act as well as the paint as a creative means, sometimes applied in thick layers on the surface, were important elements of Emil Schumacher’s work. He even went so far as to mix the paint with other substances occasionally, e.g. with sand or sawdust. In this way, he gave the colour a special weight, independent of form. His paintings are almost universal, while creating worlds of their own. On the one hand, it is possible to lose oneself in them; frequently, however, they also pose fresh questions for the viewer.

Cy Twombly

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In addition to some of his paintings, the Lambrecht-Schadeberg Collection also includes drawings, sculptures and photographs by the artist Cy Twombly (*1928 in Lexington, †2011 in Rome), who was born in the USA but moved to Italy in 1957. It is not surprising, therefore, that some works are directly influenced by mythological themes from antiquity, such as the painting “Leda and the Swan”. For other works of art, Twombly developed a so-called “pictorial script”, understanding his painting as his own alternative form of handwriting. Among other things, the artist is known for his “Grey Paintings”, large-format pictures whose backgrounds are grey, meaning they resemble school blackboards. Twombly then drew regular loops on them with white chalk, which actually look like handwriting exercises and take up the entire picture surface. Cy Twombly was awarded the 7th Rubens Prize of the City of Siegen in 1987.

Rupprecht Geiger

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“The colour should not be attached to a shape - colour itself should carry the painting as an independent element.”
Rupprecht Geiger

As a reaction to the exuberantly colourful world of advertising and consumerism as well as to his wartime experiences, the painter Rupprecht Geiger (*1908 in Munich, †2009 in Munich) developed his art to centre on colour. In doing so, he limited himself to either one bright colour or the contrast of black and white, thus reducing his means to a minimum. Geiger demonstrated that the picture carrier could have an impact on our chromatic experience, using not only rectangular canvases at a very early stage, but also ones in the shape of circles and ovals. To create an even, uniform colour surface, the artist used a special spray gun. This generates the sensation of not looking at a two-dimensional picture but becoming lost in an almost infinite, intense coloured surface, immersing oneself in it deeply. The key principle in Rupprecht Geiger’s art, therefore, is the effect of colour on the viewer. In 1992, Rupprecht Geiger was awarded the Rubens Prize of the City of Siegen for his consistent, timeless approach to painting.

Lucian Freud

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The British painter Lucian Freud (*1922 in Berlin, †2011 in London) was awarded the Rubens Prize in 1997. The main subject of his painting is the human body, but the artist also depicted animals and plants. He was particularly interested in the essence of the human being. Freud portrayed only friends, members of his family or acquaintances and so managed without professional models at all. Some of the sitters are unclothed, so that the painterly composition of the skin is easily recognizable. In this way, individual, very personal portraits were created, whereby Freud did not concentrate exclusively on the physical characteristics of the person depicted, but also on their inner world, the character and personality traits known to him. In large-format oil paintings and also in smaller etchings, he succeeded in creating a natural-looking, uncontrived rendering of his models.

The Lambrecht-Schadeberg Collection owns portraits of various personalities. But the collection also contains etchings and smaller oil paintings of animals. Freud often depicted his dogs Pluto and Eli, as he regarded the nature of animals just as worthy of depiction as human beings.

Maria Lassnig

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“Funny enough, the question which I have asked myself many times, is almost never asked: How do I manage to make the invisible visible in my work? For emotions are indeed invisible, only perceptible, and I even paint them! That is the challenge and it still remains one.”
Maria Lassnig

Maria Lassnig (*1919 in Kappel, †2014 in Vienna) was honoured for her artistic œuvre with the Rubens Prize of the City of Siegen in 2002. The Austrian-born artist related painting to her own body and created so-called “body awareness paintings” – a term she coined herself. These are self-portraits in which she explored her own feelings and set down her inner self on paper or canvas. Her paintings are executed in bright colours that often contrast with the respective depiction, as Maria Lassnig also devoted herself to themes such as pain, death and loss. Occasionally, the depicted figures appear rather deformed and seem to have been taken from a fantastic dream.

Some of her drawings and paintings incorporate a touch of humour. The artist used her time in New York, for example, to experiment  with colourful cartoon drawings. She was always preoccupied with the question of women’s roles in a male-dominated society, so that she occasionally depicted herself in her paintings as an astronaut or a knight. Maria Lassnig was the first female artist to be awarded the Rubens Prize and also the first to be able to show a comprehensive exhibition of her work in the newly opened Museum für Gegenwartskunst in 2001.

Sigmar Polke

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Sigmar Polke (*1941 in Oels, †2010 in Cologne) is considered one of the most important painters of contemporary German art due to his extremely diverse œuvre. The Lambrecht-Schadeberg Collection contains not only some of his paintings but also drawings, collages and photographs, among other things. Throughout his œuvre, the artist repeatedly experimented with different materials and media. In doing so, Polke reinvented his role as an artist time and again. For example, he created works based on the halftone raster process known from printing.

But Sigmar Polke’s art is not only characterized by the use of various techniques and styles. In his works, he also dealt with very different themes. Sometimes, he questioned the relationships between men and women in a humorous way, dealt with an artist’s existence, or deliberately took up historical themes either critically or playfully, in order to draw attention to man’s view of the world. As “an insatiable experimenter and at the same time always one hundred percent a painter”, Sigmar Polke received the Rubens Prize in 2007.

Bridget Riley

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The British artist Bridget Riley (*1931 in London, lives and works in London) was awarded the Rubens Prize in 2012. Her paintings and drawings represent minor challenges for the human eye. By arranging geometric shapes in a specific way, usually close together and in large numbers on the picture surface, the artist creates constellations unusual to the eye.

At the beginning of her career as a painter, Riley used mainly black and white contrasts and the interplay of convex and concave forms, so that her works can be classified as so-called Op-Art (Optical Art). The artist created paintings and drawings that appear to be in constant motion, thus producing extremely unusual visual effects. Since the 1970s, she has not only succeeded in doing this exclusively with black and white, but also in striped and diamond paintings whose colour combinations are calculated carefully in advance. In several phases, she experimented with different colour palettes and shapes, such as vertical stripes and lines, diamonds and arches. The Lambrecht-Schadeberg Collection contains a large number of sketches and studies in which Riley prepared her approach and the subsequent arrangement of colours and surfaces on canvas.

Niele Toroni

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Swiss-born painter Niele Toroni (*1937 in Muralto, lives and works in Paris) applies his brushstrokes to a surface with great precision and uniformity, at intervals of 30 cm. He always uses the same brush size, no. 50, but the paint and the backgrounds change. In addition to “classic” works on canvas, there are also works on metal panels, newsprint or wax cloth. However, Toroni is particularly known for applying his paintings directly to buildings – on walls, doors or masonry. Every surface can be used as an image carrier, both indoors and outdoors.

The exact placement of a brushstroke on a given surface defines the artistic gesture. Toroni has remained true to this working method and the associated conceptual approach to this day. In 2017, he received the Rubens Prize of the City of Siegen for his work. During the year the prize was awarded, he created, among other things, a work applied with yellow acrylic paint to the white wall in the exhibition space of the MGKSiegen. This has now become part not only of the collection but also of the architecture.

The Rubens Prize, a Cross-Section of 20th and 21st Century Painting

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The Rubens Prize, which is awarded every five years, has been presented to some very different artists in the past. Painting is always a common denominator, but the configuration of their artworks proves highly individual, alternating between abstract and non-representational art, figurative painting and experimental or intensely chromatic paintings. They reflect both the artist’s respective attitude and the time of their creation – from the end of the Second World War to the present day. Thus, the Lambrecht-Schadeberg Collection not only presents a cross-section of painting’s history in the 20th and 21st centuries, but also links yesterday and today. We eagerly await the award of the next Rubens Prize in 2027.

This feature was developed as part of the project “Museum Digital”, kindly supported by the Ministry of Culture and Science of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia.

Texts and project coordination: Nora Memmert
Editorial team: Ann-Katrin Drews, Ines Rüttinger, Stefanie Scheit-Koppitz, Christian Spies, Thomas Thiel
English translation: Lucinda Rennison
Audio production: Tonwelt GmbH 2020