Heinz Trokes Biography

Heinz Trokes




Painter, printmaker, designer, and educator Heinz Trokes was born in Hamborn am Rhein, Germany, on August 15, 1913. He first studied art under Johannes Itten in Krefeld from 1933 to 1936, when he moved to Augsburg to work as a textile designer for JP Bremberg while establishing a painting career. In 1937, on a trip to Paris, he met Wassily Kandinsky, whose work would remain a steady influence on Trokes for the majority of his career.

The first solo exhibition offered to Trokes was to take place in 1938 at the Nierendorf Gallery in Berlin; however, as Nazi Germany took hold, the show was canceled, Trokes’ art labeled degenerate, and he was expelled from the Reich’s Chamber of Culture. No longer able to exhibit in Germany, Trokes relocated to Switzerland with the intention of ultimately moving to Indonesia (then known as the Dutch East Indies) to escape Nazi Germany. However, war made these plans impossible, and in 1940 he returned once more to Krefeld, hoping to study under Georg Muche. He was quickly drafted into the Wehrmacht as an anti-aircraft soldier, and spent the rest of the war stationed in Berlin, studying when he could at Max Dungert’s school and befriending German resistance fighter Oskar Huth.

Following the end of World War II he helped to found the first private gallery in Berlin during reconstruction, the Gerd Rosen Gallery, where he was director until 1946. He then began to reestablish his own art career, briefly taking a teaching position in 1947 at the Weimar State College for Architecture and Art to support himself. For the remainder of the decade, while pursuing his painting career, he continued to promote German art and artists and participated in several group and solo exhibitions in Berlin. Among these was the L’Art Moderne, German contemporary art exhibition in Baden-Baden, 1948.

The 1950s ushered in a new era for Trokes, who began to expand his participation in intellectual and artistic groups and exhibitions internationally. He traveled to Paris in 1950 where he befriended Modernist artists hailing from all over Europe and joined the Rixes group, which included Matta, Serpan, Riopelle, Duchamp, Breton, and Ernst, among others. The following year he emigrated with his wife Renee to Ibiza and began to explore themes of topography in his painting. He won a Hallmark Competition Prize in New York (1953) and the German Critics’ Prize (1955). He continued to promote German art and to exhibit internationally, participating in the first documenta exhibition in Kassel. He returned to Germany in 1956 to teach at Hamburg’s State College for Visual Art, where he remained through 1958. At this time he began to explore printmaking, taking up lithography and etching, and received commissions in mosaic and stained glass.

He then traveled for several more years and took a variety of major commissions before accepting a position at the State Academy for Visual Arts in Stuttgart in 1962, and then at the Academy of Arts in Berlin in 1965, where he remained until retirement in 1978. Trokes then focused once more on his painting career, constantly experimenting with new styles and techniques. He continued to work until his death in Berlin on April 22, 1997.