Biography (deutsch / english)

Cleff III. Portrait
Photo: Klemens Renner

Michael Cleff III

He is at present the most acclaimed portrait painter in Germany recording the men and women who make European history and culture: Michael Cleff III. Pope Benedikt XVI., His Majesty Otto von Habsburg, Bill Clinton, the German Bundespräsident Roman Herzog, Bundeskanzler Gerhard Schröder and the famous German minister of foreign affairs of the 70ies and 80ies Hans-Dietrich Genscher, the celebrated head of the Bayreuth Festspiele Wolfgang Wagner, grandson of the genous composer Richard Wagner, Dr. Wibke von Bonin, German actors like Sir Peter Ustinov, Günther Strack, Helmut Qualtinger and Götz George and, as an crypto-portrait, Siegfried from Siegfried and Roy in Las Vegas as Siegfried of Nibelung.

Michael Cleff III was born in Bamberg in 1947, son of the famous portrait painter Erich Cleff the younger, known for his portraits of the men who built the post war West-Germany, and grandson of the academic artist Erich Cleff the older active in Salzburg and Wuppertal. Though famous for his portraits he has also created an important, but scarcely known oeuvre of still-lives and semi-abstract landscape paintings, held by various museums and collections and often shown in international exhibitions.

Now living once more in Bamberg, a romantic medieval town which has inspired numerous artists in the past, Cleff III spent a substantial and important part of his life in Munich. Especially during the 1980s in Munich he was influenced directly by the movement of the "Junge Wilde" (German for "wild youth"), which created a neoexpressionist painting, arising in the German speaking world in opposition to established Avant garde, Minimal Art and Conceptual Art, linked to the New-Image-Painting in the USA, the Transavantguardia movement in Italy or the Figuration Libre in France.

Using dry but bright, intense colors with quick, broad, brushstrokes, Cleff III usually completes his finished paintings with rayonnistic strokes and dropping paint running over the canvases in a natural way, giving his pictures a typical and unique appearance. Especially in his portraits he succedes in characterizing his models in their personality without using old masters technique.

Dr. Karl-Georg Pfändtner (Munich)