1901 Gummersbach – 1998 Düsseldorf
Bruno Goller, born in Gummersbach, lived and worked solely in Düsseldorf from 1927. In time, he became increasingly reluctant to continue his artistic activity, especially after the outbreak of the Second World War. This could be the reason why he is one of the German artists lesser known by the public. He had a very uniquely created style and never associated himself with any particular artistic movement, only being bound to himself and his art. Werner Schmalenbach, art historian and museum director, defined him as “one of the most authentic personalities of art before and after the middle of the century”. Goller started painting as a teenager, and between 1919 and 1922 he studied under landscape painter Julius Jungheim. When he presented one of his paintings to the public for the first time in 1922 at the Grand Art Exhibition in Düsseldorf, it was sold immediately. He spent 1924–1925 in Italy and lived in Düsseldorf from 1927. First, he joined Das Junge Rheinland, and in 1928 he cofounded the Rhenish Secession, consisting of artists belonging to the circle around the Düsseldorf gallerist Johanna Ey (Mother Ey). When her gallery was closed by the Nazis, Goller increasingly fell into financial problems and worked in secret, as according to the cultural policy of the Nazis he was considered a “degenerate” artist.
From 1940, Goller served as a soldier in France. During an air raid in 1943, his studio in Düsseldorf, and almost all of the 100 paintings that comprised his early work, were destroyed. After being released from American captivity, Goller returned to Düsseldorf in 1945. Apart from a few exceptions, he never left the city again. In 1946, he rejoined the Rhenish Secession, and in 1949 the New Rhenish Secession. That same year, he was asked to conduct lectures at Düsseldorf’s Fine Arts Academy and teach a preparatory and a drawing class. From 1953 to 1964, he was a professor of painting. His students included such prominent artists as Konrad Klapheck, Blinky Palermo, Konrad Fischer (aka Konrad Lueg), and many others. In the late 1950s, he achieved great artistic success. In 1958, the Kestner Society in Hanover organised his first retrospective, and in 1959 Goller participated with is works in documenta 2 in Kassel. In 1965, he received the Grand Prize for Art in North Rhine-Westphalia, and represented Germany at the eighth São Paulo Biennale. In 1967, he became a member of the Academy of Arts in Berlin and was granted the Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany. In 1984, he became an honorary member of the Fine Arts Academy in Düsseldorf. During his creative period, Goller’s world of motifs was based on things – which remained unchanged even after the war, when his tendencies towards abstraction became more ubiquitous. In his early and late works, he drew themes from his childhood memories of his mother’s hat shop, which is why his preferred motifs were shop windows, decorations, and the like. The female characters in his postwar paintings, in their extensive modulation characteristic of Goller, also remind the observer slightly of mannequins, as opposed to his earlier, more realistically presented female portraits and nudes.