Carl Timner was born and raised in Berlin. His father, who died prematurely, headed the “Carl Timner” vinegar factory founded by the painter’s grandfather. In 1950 Timner graduated from high school at the Goethe-Gymnasium in Berlin and between 1951 and 1952 he attended the Master School for Artistic Crafts. He then studied at the State Academy of Fine Arts in Berlin – Charlottenburg (Basic apprenticeship with Hans Uhlmann, painting class with Max Kaus) and between 1952 and 1953 he studied Art History, Archaeology and Philosophy at the University of Göttingen. In 1951 Timner travelled to Italy for the first time.
From 1953 to 1956 he lived in Rome, where he worked in the studio of the painter Corrado Cagli (1910-1976). While in Italy he stayed in close contact with the artistic circle around painters Renato Guttuso (1911-1987) with whom he was friends, Giuseppe Capogrossi, brothers Afro and Mirko Basaldella as well as writer, painter and politician Carlo Levi. Their belonging to the anti-fascist resistance movement introduced Timner to political issues as well as to the controversial and contentious debate about abstract or figurative art.
In 1956 Timner returned to West Berlin supporting his mother in the management of the family business again refounded after the disasters of the war.
In 1965-1966 he received a commission for a sketch and sample studies for the reconstruction of the ceiling of the Charlottenburg Palace, painted by Antoine Pesne and destroyed during WWII. In 1968 Timner became the assistant of Renato Guttuso at the Academy of Fine Arts in Hamburg and co-founder of the group “Red Carnation” in West Berlin, where he remained until 1973. He then co-founded the “Vereinigung demokratischer und sozialistischer Künstler” (VDSK) or “Association of Democratic and Socialist Artists.” Timner actively participated in exhibitions and activities of both clubs.
In 1971 Timner married Clara Moriconi, an Italian girl who he met through the painter Angelo Moriconi (1932-1977), Clara’s brother and Timner’s close friend.
In 1972-1975 Timner, together with actor Michael Kramer, was appointed Chairman of the “Staendigen Komitees Kulturtage- Progressive Kunst West Berlin”, the Standing Committee for Culture Days and Progressive Art of West Berlin.
In the 1980’s he worked with the group “Artists for Peace”. From 1978 until 1986 he taught Nude Drawing as a visiting professor at the School of Fine Arts in West Berlin.
Timner was a member of the “Künstlersonderbund in Deutschland. Realismus der Gegenwart” (German Artist League. Realism of the Present) since 2002.
Since the 1950’s until the end of the separation of the city, Timner provided several works to the most important art exhibitions in Berlin like the “Juryfreien Kunstaustellung”, the “Freie Berliner Kunstaustellung” in West Berlin, and the “Intergrafik” exhibition in Berlin (East Germany).
Retrospectives of his work were organized at the “Kulturhaus Marchwitza” in Potsdam (1986), at the Municipal Gallery in Berlin (1988 and 1998) and at the Complesso Museale di San Francesco in Trevi (Perugia, 2003). For decades Carl Timner lived and worked between Berlin and Rome, and most recently in Trevi, where he died at the age of 81.
At the beginning of Carl Timner’s body of work, which according to the catalogues includes about 1,300 paintings, there are several self-portraits created around 1950. Stylized images take up a large part of this, as do still lifes (some of them using the collage techniques), cityscapes, and occasionally even portraits, the one of US set designer Edwin (Ed) Wittstein (1929-2011) and of the British poet Thomson (Thom) William Gunn (1929-2004), painted in Italy in 1954. Then, starting from 1953 to 1962, Timner switches from figurative to abstract art such as that of the paintings “The Garden of Paradise”, “Guardian in Orangenhein”, and “The Lares (Household Gods)” dating back to 1954. Geometric patterns form the abstract series of the colourful and joyful “Picture Puzzles” (1954), to which we associate “Variations on Cosmatesque inlays “(1955) and “Variations on a theme of architect C.P.” (1955/56).
From 1957 to 1961 with the series “Gitterbilder”, “Netzbilder”, “Kakteenbilder”, “Strohbilder”, “Rollbilder” and “Rindenbilder” what comes to the forefront of Timner’s artistic production is a series of abstract compositions in clayey colours, whose structural principle makes itself known in the titles. Among the figurative paintings of this period, instead, we often find lute and flute players as well as many portraits of people from the artist’s family and friendship circles.
Timner’s abstract phase ends in 1962. Starting from that year, human figures, landscape, cityscape (mostly of Berlin and Rome, and surrounding areas), nature and still life paintings (mostly bouquets) become the dominant themes. Political events in the early 1960s such as the building of the Berlin Wall and the Cuba crisis, which sped up the Cold War between East and West, and the rising of the civil rights and student movements, especially in the USA and in West Berlin, largely influence Timner’s work during the decade. Between 1968 and 1971 Timner paints a series of pictures full of tension due to the atmosphere of the Vietnam War. Among these “Vietnam III (with Rudi Dutschke) (Bloody demonstration)”. The latter includes two portraits of the student leader who was object of an attack in April 1968 as a symbol of West German solidarity with the Vietcong. This was followed by “Vietnam IV. (Slain man)”, “Vietnam V. (The hand with the flag)”, and finally “Vietnam VI” in which a Vietcong flag and a jubilant young man filling the canvas are a symbol of the victorious end of the war.
From then on political and social issues became a central point in Timner’s artistic production. As seen with the Vietnam issue, the single painting is dominated, through a montage-like set, by people who, individually or in groups, become carriers of positive emotions through their gestures, facial expressions, clothes and symbolic objects. The background, usually structured by restless brushstrokes, forms a dramatic and at the same time open dramatic space. This group of paintings includes, for example, “The Red Carnation Group” (1969-70), a self-portrait together with the other group members, while “Dedicated to my friends in San Francisco” (1971) and “For Angela Davis” (1972) refer to events happening in the United States. “International Children’s Day, Berlin, Schiller Park” (1973), “Lokomotive Kreuzberg” (1974), “30 years of peace?” as well as “In memory of the Kulturtage” (1978) refer to activities of the political left in West Berlin.
An important role is played by the series of paintings on Chile, dated 1974. This is a bitter reaction to the 1973 bloody military coup d’état by general Augusto Pinochet which repressed the democratically elected government of the Unidad Popular. The series includes paintings like “Girl with blanket (Chile)”, “The Invincible Writing (Brecht)”, “Know, my brother, that the fight will go on (Pablo Neruda)”, “We will avenge you,”, “Sing for Chile” and “For the people in Chile” in which we can see fighting men beaten or killed for a free Chile or as a symbol of international solidarity.
Sketches of injured and tortured half-naked men and faces contorted in pain lead us to the series on the civil war in Lebanon and in particular to the massacre of Christian militias in a Palestinian camp in 1976. The title of the series – “Not closed off from learning forever” (1977) – is a quote from Bertolt Brecht’s play “The Mother”. Timner’s “Study VIII” is titled “In Memoriam ‘God with us’ Guttuso 1945” (alluding to the series of antifascist paintings by Renato Guttuso), followed by “We already know this (Homage to Corrado Cagli)”, “There is no sense in this”, “This too, no”, and “This will not do” – paintings which feature scenes of torture partly mythological and excessive as well as figures that come from the artistic imagery of Matthias Grünewald.
Peacekeeping constitutes an important theme in Timner’s work, presenting always new variations. In the 1980’s he created “Members of the group ‘Peng Peng’ during the performance of their ‘nuclear bomb song’, October 1981”, and “For peace”. The painting “For the bloody week in Köpenik” (1982), on the other hand, refers to a historic event at the beginning of the Nazi dictatorship and was exhibited for a few years in the memorial monument for the same. “It is always the same” (also called “Apocalypse”, 1982-83) recalls Dürer’s Apocalyptic horseman and at the same time is a tribute to John Heartfield.
Timner’s committed realism is rooted in the history of European art from the Renaissance to the Realism of the 1920s. In paintings such “Old woman (Käthe Kollwitz)” (1974), and “According to Caravaggio (Victorious Love)” (1998) we find direct references to such traditions. Many nude drawings (especially those created around 1990) recall the work of Egon Schiele while the famous engraving “Melancholia I” (1514) by Albrecht Dürer inspired the artist for years in his versions of the theme which we can see in the paintings “Winged melancholy” (1978), “Melancholy in Rome” (1983) and “Melancholy cum self-portrait “(2008). In 1995 instead, half a century after the end of World War II and until 1997, Timner paints a series of “Variations on the Black Rooms (homage to Karl Hofer)” in which he refers to Hofer’s dark foreboding of 1924 (1943 for the second version) on fascism in Germany, linking it to the present day with slight hope of self-determination and rebellion.
Other themes in Timner’s work relate to his working life. The series “Druckereibilder” (1978/79) includes snapshots of various moments of the working day and of the relationship between man and machine.
Historical and mythological themes can be found in “Katharina of Alexandria” (1984), “Fortuna in Piazza del Popolo” (1985), “Babylon” and “Adam and Eve” (both painted in 1986), “Judith” (1987) and “The foolish virgins “(2002).
The human figure here is the focal point, and an expression of humane attitude. The study of anatomy, movement and clothing lead to numerous, intimate compositions, mainly focusing on female figures. Musicians too, both alone and in groups, become a constant theme in Timner’s artistic work. We can only mention the importance of portraiture for Timner, which refers to a large circle of friends and acquaintances. An honourable mention must go to the 1980 portrait of the aged actor Curt Bois (1901-1991) who, after his exile in the US, worked primarily at the Schiller Theatre in West Berlin.
Apart from the human figure, Timner painted many still life paintings, landscapes and cityscapes. A typical object in his paintings is the chair, always with an upholstered or woven seat, covered with pieces of clothing, especially leather jackets, kimonos and female underwear, strewn over it. In addition to that we find flowers: columbines, brooms, mallows, mimosas, oleanders or marigolds but also sunflowers (to which Timner dedicates a whole series in 1996).
In his landscape paintings Timner shows a strong empathy with nature. In Italy the artist especially loves the park of Villa Doria Pamphili, a large park in Rome. Old places and buildings in the Italian capital constitute central motifs – the Roman Forum, Coliseum, Capitoline Hill, Piazza Navona and Porta del Popolo – as well as views over the rooftops of the city, the landscape in Lazio and Umbria.
Already in the early 1970’s the artists created cityscapes in which beauty and decay mix, especially featuring Kreuzberg, as a reference to the demolition of the old residential area. The Spree, and Berlin’s canals and bridges as well as the area around the city train (S-Bahn) are frequent motifs. After the fall of the Berlin Wall we can see the eastern part of the city (for example the Gendarmenmarkt, the cathedral, and the TV tower) as well as the area around Berlin come to the foreground – Lakes SchwielowSee and Ruppiner See, the city of Potsdam with its many old buildings.
Timner’s work is accompanied by drawings for a total of about 1,400 sheets, executed in pencil or colours, crayons, charcoal, chalk, or sanguine on (sometimes tinted) paper. Part of these drawings were used as sketches or preliminary study for paintings but many feature an autonomous, emphasized and vital character of painterly-plastic nature.
At the centre of the composition is the human figure – usually female – sketched using live models during sessions in his studio, or photos. Naked or dressed, they are women who are seen hugging each other, holding each other or are otherwise as related to each other.
Within Timner’s artistic work we find series that not only accompany the paintings, lead to them or are close to them in content. Rather, they expand the breadth of the paintings’ theme. In addition, Timner was also the author of numerous designs for posters, covers and illustrations for books as well as graphics and especially lithographs.
Timner’s work, consisting of paintings and drawings of figures, portraits, still life paintings, landscapes and cityscapes, links all of these facets into a whole in which the personal and social experience of the artist is reflected.