Karl Stengel has lived through important and dramatic periods in the history of 20th century art. Born in 1925 in Neusatz, on the banks of the Danube, from his early childhood he had the impulse to “have to” draw and was strongly attracted by the contrast of black and white. After the war and the years in the Russian prison camp, a long time passed before a middle class child could be admitted to an art academy. It was the period of Socialist Realism, a style imposed by the Soviet Communist Party. There was no room for artistic individualism, or to seek one’s own possibilities, expressive style, or creativity. Upon the arrival of the Soviet tanks with the occupation of Hungary in 1956, Karl Stengel fled to Monaco in Germany. Studying at the Akademie der Schönen Künste, he was surprised – and not in a positive way – by the lightness with which his young colleagues took to abstract modernism, especially after the dominant artistic expression extorted by Hitler. Again, he could not see the way to follow his path with sincerity. He was unable to follow his impulse “to have to paint” for almost two decades. Then the strong call of the voices that wanted to be expressed and painted, resurfaced, together with the desire to see and hear what others hadn’t seen, even if it was in front of them. Karl Stengel passed away in his beloved Tuscan countryside, 25 June 2017.
Karl Stengel had exhibitions in the USA (NYC, Miami), Norway, Romania, Poland (Krakow, Warsaw), France (Paris, Cannes), Spain and Mexico. The first ever exhibition was in 1943, in the Russian camp in Siberia where Karl was a prisoner of war and showed his portraits. An officer saw Karl drawing with a piece of charcoal on a cement bag and provided him paper and pencil to portray him and his colleagues. In Germany, he had many shows in Berlin and in Munich, where the Institute of Italian Culture presented his illustrations of Boccaccio’s Decameron and Giuseppe Ungaretti’s Frammenti. In 2015, Stengel showed at Palazzo Mora in the context of the Biennale di Venezia. In that same year, he won the first prize at international contest of GemlucArt in Monte-Carlo. In 2016, he had a solo show at Palazzo Loredan in Venice, where the Istituto Veneto di Scienze, Lettere et Arti is based, as well as another solo show at the Galerie Ribolzi in Monte-Carlo, where the opening was attended by HRH Princess Caroline of Hanover.