- Also known as
primary name: Friedeberger, Klaus
- individual; painter/draughtsman; Australian; German; Male
- Life dates
- Text from Stephen Coppel, 'Out of Australia: Prints and Drawings from Sidney Nolan to Rover Thomas', with a contribution by Wally Caruana on Aboriginal prints, BMP, 2011.
Friedeberger was born in Berlin to secular Jewish parents, who divorced when he was eight. In 1938, to escape persecution, he was sent to the Quaker School Eerde in the Netherlands. In April 1939 he arrived as a refugee in England. His mother also managed to escape to England but died in December 1939. After the outbreak of war, as part of a nationwide rounding up of 'enemy aliens', he was interned in transit camps at Kempton Park Racecourse and Huyton, before being transported to Australia on the prison ship, 'Dunera'.
Aged eighteen Friedeberger disembarked in Sydney in September 1940. The 'Dunera' internees were taken to the internment camp at Hay in the remote interior of New South Wales. Friedeberger, like many of the other internees, took part in the stimulating artistic and intellectual environment in the isolated camp, including classes in art history given by Ernst Kitzinger and Franz Philipp, and in colour theory by the former Bauhaus lecturer Ludwig Hirschfeld Mack. His most influential teacher was Hein Heckroth, the surrealist painter and stage designer whose classes in drawing and watercolour greatly encouraged Friedeberger and Erwin Fabian. Friedeberger made over 200 watercolour drawings during his eighteen-month internment in the camps at Hay, Orange, NSW and Tatura, Victoria. Several were shown in his first 'group exhibition' held in the camp at Hay in May 1941. The reviewer in the camp newspaper, 'The Boomerang', no.12 (16 May 1941), singled out 'his great feeling for abstract ornamental design'.
In 1942 he was released from the camp at Tatura to join the 8th Australian Employment Company, a labour corps. During his free time in Melbourne he met local artists including Arthur Boyd and Sidney Nolan. In 1945 he was stationed at Tocumwal on the New South Wales border with Victoria, working on the railway. After demobilization Friedeberger enrolled at East Sydney Technical College under the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme in 1947. He formed lasting friendships with the painters Guy Warren and Tony Tuckson, the sculptors Alan Ingham and Oliffe Richmond, and a younger printmaker, Elizabeth Rooney. With Warren he hitchhiked 'half-way round Australia' in the summer of 1947-8 and a painting, 'Mt Gillen, Alice Springs', which developed from that trip, won the Mosman Art Prize in 1949. He collaborated with Tuckson on murals for the ship Manoora commemorating its wartime service.
In 1950 Friedeberger returned to Europe and settled in London. During the 1950s he developed in his paintings the theme of children playing which he had begun in Australia. In high-key colour they comprised his first-one man show launching Annely Juda's Hamilton Galleries in George Street, Hanover Square in 1963. Around 1966 Friedeberger renounced colour and since then his paintings have been gestural non-objective compositions in white, greys and black. Since 1994 metallic paints have been occasionally introduced. Friedeberger also worked as a graphic designer and taught part-time from 1961 to 1980. A retrospective was held at Woodlands Art Gallery, London in 1992. His surrealist Australian works were included in the National Gallery of Australia's 'Surrealism: Revolution by Night' in 1993. An exhibition of his early work, 1940-70, was held at England & Co, London in 2007, and recent work was shown in Aberystwyth in 2009.
Although Friedeberger never returned to Australia, he maintained close links with Australian artists. He regularly exhibited with Australian artists working in London, including exhibitions at the Imperial Institute in 1956 and 1957.
Died in London, aged 97, on 19 September 2019
- Stephen Coppel, 'Klaus Friedeberger: Works 1940-1970', exh. cat., London: England & Co., 2007 (includes chronology); Magdalene Keaney, 'Images of Displacement: Art from the Internment Camps' in Roger Butler (ed.), 'The Europeans: Émigré Artists in Australia 1930-1960', Canberra: National Gallery of Australia, 1997, pp. 85-101; Simon Pierse, 'Klaus Friedeberger: Recent Paintings', exh. cat., with preface by Stephen Coppel, Aberystwyth: The School of Art, 2009