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Composition au Pont Noir. c. 1960s
Gotthard Joachim Friedlaender, better known as Johnny Friedlaender, was a German/French artist renowned for his pioneering use of aquatint etching. He was internationally exhibited, a great innovator in colour printmaking and influential upon other notable artists in this field.
Born in Pless, in what was Prussian Silesia (Pszczyna, in Poland), in 1912, the son of a pharmacist, he graduated from high school in Breslau (now Wroclaw in Poland) 1922 and then attended the Akademie Der Bildenden Künste. There he studied lithography and etching under Carlos Mense, one of the leaders of the "Neue Sachlichkeit" (New Objectivity) Movement, and Otto Müller, a member of Die Brücke, graduating in 1928 as a master student.
In 1930, he moved to Dresden, where his work was included in group exhibitions at Galerie J. Sandel. Already famous as an artist, he travelled to Berlin in 1932/21 where he created a theatre troupe and joined the Association of Revolutionary Artists in Germany becoming friends with a number of other artists, mainly at the "Zuntz Café", where political/artistic meetings regularly took place.
After being denounced as an enemy of the Regime and a nazi-labelled "degenerate" painter, Friedlaender was imprisoned for a year. On his release in December 1936, he and his wife escaped from Germany and the French consulate in Rotterdam granted him a temporary visa to visit the World Exhibition in Paris following which both he and his wife were granted asylum in France. In 1938 and 1939, Friedlaender worked at the literary weekly magazine 'Marianne'. From 1939 to 1943 he was imprisoned in a series of French internment camps but evaded transportation to Auschwitz through sheer luck and was finally released due to the persistent requests of his wife.
After the war, the Friedlaenders returned to Paris in 1945 as 'stateless persons'. In 1947 he became a member of the Salon de Mai, and in 1952 he became a French citizen.
Friedlaender travelled and exhibited widely throughout his life, exhibiting in Tokyo, Milan, Amsterdam, Rome, São Paulo, Turin, Bern, New York City, Krefeld, Puerto Rico, Washington D.C. and Paris. Amongst the many awards he received, he was awarded the Kakmura Prize in Tokyo in 1957; in 1959 received a teaching post awarded by UNESCO at the Museum of Modern Art in Rio de Janeiro, in 1969 he was awarded the "Merit Cross" (First Class) by the German Government and in 1982 was awarded the Lovis Corinth Prize in Regensburg. In 1990 he was named a member of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of Belgium.
On his 75th birthday a retrospective of his work was given in the "Künsthalle" in Bremen, and a further retrospective was held in Bonn on his 80th birthday. Friedlaender died in Paris three days short of this. On what would have been his 80th birthday, he was posthumously awarded the "Paul Strecker" medal by Dr. Berthold Roland, Curator of the "Landesmuseum" in Mainz.