ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: Heinrich Kley

by Greg Ruth


Look, there are more fabulous artists out there than a human life can fully appreciate, and when you go back in time even to the 19th-20th centuries, it's even more shocking how much there is to see. This excess of riches always for me at least, churls up someone very old but to me very new. I can shamelessly say that up until about six months ago I had never heard of Heinrich Kley beyond his name popping up in casual conversation. But Man oh man am I glad to get to know his work now. A superlative drafstman by any measure- he manages to not hide his searching lines but place them on view as a celebration. 










His wild gesticulating sketches never lose their momentum for a hot second and he manages even in his more finished work to keep that lightening bottled but never diminished. He draws like a man on fire and never misses a mark to panic. I am absolutely mesmerized by the life and energy of his work to the point of drooling obsession now. To me he again affirms the immediate and infinitely human power in art that few other mediums can ever achieve save for drawing on paper. 




There's an directness and personal quality to drawing with ink or pencil or charcoal, devoid of the orchestral grandeur of an oil painting, that dances in front of your eyes nakedly unashamed of its minimalism and its full quality. It never apologizes nor entertains the notion there's ever a need to. When you see his work up close all other concerns vanish before the astute power of his renderings. Anyone looking to loosen up, get jiggy with their practiced materials, whether you're just starting out or coming back from a long career in art can learn more from just seeing him in action on paper than a semester of life study work. 

There's a number of books out there of varying qualities that showcase his work collectively, but these are my current favorites. Would love to hear of more if you know em! Links via amazon below the images: 


The Drawings of Heinrich Kley (Dover Fine Art, History of Art)


The Lost Art of Heinrich Kley, Volume 1: Drawings


The Lost Art of Heinrich Kley, Volume 2: Paintings & Sketches 


Now get out there and get your Kley on!

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