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Painting is silent poetry, and poetry is painting that speaks. Simonides

Willi Sitte (28 February 1921 – 8 June 2013)

Willi Sitte

Willi Sitte (28 February 1921 – 8 June 2013) was a German painter who was for a long time the president of the East German association of visual artists.

The painter and graphic designer Willi Sitte was born in Chrastava, Czechoslovakia. He began to study art in 1936 at the North Bohemian Industrial Museum school in Liberec, and later at the Hermann Goring Meisterschule. He was expelled in 1941 when he co-authored a letter protesting the school's training methods, and was then drafted into military service. While posted in Italy in 1945, Sitte joined a group of Italian partisans. In 1946, he returned to his native town and worked there for a German anti-fascist group. Already active in the communist youth movement from the 30s, he soon moved to what was then the Soviet-occupied zone of Germany. Sitte's artistic work and his lifestyle were closely bound up with the political and cultural developments in the German Democratic Republic, where he would become a highly influential figure among artists and critics. As a painter, Sitte was influenced by early Italian artists, as well as Leger and Picasso and the Mexican muralist David Siqueiros. He initially painted decorative and lyrical compositions, but in the 50s his paintings took on a pictorial quality, depicting biblical, mythological and socialist philosophical themes. In the 1960s, Sitte began to concentrate on the Marxist themes of class struggle and anti-imperialism. During this period, his influence in artistic circles of the GDR increased. He held a chair at the training institute Hochschule fur Industrielle Formgestaltung, and was eventually elected president, in 1974, of the union for artists and craftsmen, the Verband Bildender Kunstler der DDR. In this position, which he held until 1988, Sitte had the responsibility for maintaining the artistic principles of the party. Sitte supported the Communist Party through the 1980s. Even after he lost his post at the Verband, he was considered an honorary president by a hard-line group within the union. Through the 1990s, Sitte continued to paint human figures in a bold, realistic style which reflected the eclectic origins of his technique.

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