Albert Birkle

1900 Berlin - 1986 Salzburg

Albert Birkle was born in Berlin-Charlottenburg, the first son in a family of artists. After the First World War he started an apprenticeship as a decorative painter in his father’s factory. From 1920 to 1925, he studied at the Berlin Academy and was admitted as the youngest member of the Berlin Secession and the Prussian Academy of Arts chaired by Max Liebermann. During these years of study, Birkle developed a religious and sociocritical realism with some traits of New Objectivity, which could even have traits of caricature, as his highly individual faces demonstrate. In 1924 he married the applied artist Elisabeth Starosta. In 1927 the artist turned down a professorship at the Academy in Königsberg in order to accept commissions to paint church murals at, among other locations, Gaislingern and Katowice. In 1932 Birkle moved to Salzburg. During the 1930s, his work lost its sociocritical edge. His landscapes and industrial scenes became more atmospheric and monumental.

In 1937 his pictures were removed from the Haus der Deutschen Kunst in Munich before the exhibition opened. Just one year before, those same works had represented Germany at the Venice Biennale. Further artworks were declared to be degenerate art and confiscated from public collections. In the Second World War, Birkle managed at first to avoid military service by volunteering for Reich labour service. As a dedicated pacifist, he worked as a war artist, painted a fresco at the barracks in Glasenbach, and was sent to France as a war correspondent. Albert Birkle became an Austrian citizen in 1946, worked in his adopted country as religious glass painter and followed a new path by using the French “dalleglas” technique. In 1958 he was appointed professor. The artist was extremely prolific in the field of stained glass between the years of 1950 and 1960 and created many important religious and decorative works and series of glass windows in churches. In his late expressive paintings and drawings, Birkle returned to his early sociocritical tendencies of the 1920s and 1940s, regarding himself as a “chronicler of the times”. His biblical depictions also include critical commentaries of his time. Albert Birkle died in Salzburg on January 29, 1986.