Irmgard Sörensen was born in Kiel in 1896. When she was later asked how long she had been painting, she replied, ‘Since I can think’. Her unique talent is already evident in early childhood and informs her journey through life. In her hometown she first qualifies as a graphic illustrator; in 1917, she enrols at the Akademie für Graphische Künste und Buchgewerbe Leipzig. At the then progressive and reform-orientated academy, she attends courses including book design and typography and specialises in advertising graphics. In 1920 she wins a students’ poster competition with an abstract design that points to a new image concept. A training certificate from this period recommends that her future field of activity be ‘principally well-made printed advertising in the innovative aesthetic trend’.
She completes her studies in February 1924. In the same period she marries the Leipzig-based physician and anthroposophist Friedrich Popitz. From then on, she usually goes by the name Söre Popitz. She is succinct about her motivations for the subsequent, decisive step: ‘I went to the Bauhaus Weimar because I was keen to meet like-minded people’. She enrols here in October 1924 and attends the preliminary course, which is obligatory for all students. The attends classes taught by László Moholy-Nagy, Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky, in which the fundamental questions of linear and colour composition are dealt with. The work that Söre Popitz produces in this period clearly demonstrates the influence of her teachers, who had made a radical break with the classical concept of art.
When the Bauhaus relocates to Dessau in 1925, Söre Popitz parts ways with the school. She works from then on in Leipzig as a freelance advertising graphic designer. The advertising she designs for local companies employ a constructivist design vocabulary. Her designs for Verlag Otto Beyer include adverts and a title page for the magazine ‚die neue linie’, a society magazine that also employs Bauhauslers such as László Moholy-Nagy, Herbert Bayer and Franz Ehrlich.
The years after 1933 lead Söre Popitz into a period of ‘inner emigration’. She continues to work as an advertising graphic designer for Verlag Otto Beyer and also paints for herself, producing numerous paintings of flowers. She endures the war years in Leipzig; much of her work is destroyed in air raids. Two years after the end of the war, she moves with her husband to Frankfurt am Main, where Friedrich Popitz dies in 1949. In the time thereafter she designs book covers for the publisher Insel Verlag, but is seldom active as a fine artist.
In 1956, Söre Popitz finds her way back to painting. She now creates abstract compositions in the style of art informel. She makes a complete break with constructivism and geometric abstraction. In the 1950s other early Bauhaus students such as Wilhelm Imkamp, Fritz Winter and Wolfgang Schulze (Wols) also turn towards this art movement, which is a powerful cultural trend in West Germany. An intensely productive period of painting follows for Söre Popitz. Over the subsequent decades her work continues to be informed by art informel. Her work is shown in exhibitions in numerous galleries. In 1968 a reconstruction of a study in balance from László Moholy-Nagy’s preliminary course is presented at the anniversary exhibition ‘50 jahre bauhaus’ in Stuttgart. In 1970 the Bauhaus-Archiv Darmstadt hosts an exhibition showing 30 contemporary works.
Söre Popitz died in 1993 at the age of 97. Her estate passed to the Wuppertal-based gallery owner Wilma Stöhr. In 2011 she loaned the collection to the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation, where the works were inventoried. Some of the works of Söre Popitz were on show 2014/15 in the exhibition ‘Bauhaus. The Art of the Students’.
· Patrick Rössler (2009): Söre. Vom Bauhaus zum Informel, Winnenden.
· Patrick Rössler (2009): the bauhaus at the newsstand / das bauhaus am kiosk. die neue linie 1929–1943, Bielefeld.
· Steffen Schröter (2014): Die Künstlerin und Werbegrafikerin Irmgard Sörensen-Popitz. Entwicklung eines Ausstellungskonzeptes auf der Grundlage ihres Nachlasses in der Stiftung Bauhaus Dessau, Bachelorarbeit, Leipzig.
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