Socialist realism via Rauch and Loy

I was looking at similarities between paintings by Rosa Loy and Neo Rauch, and thinking about the idea of a personal painting style. Somehow, the fact that they’re partners seems to support the idea that the similarities result from mutually beneficial  processes (including collaboration), and that this can be celebrated (for example, in a joint exhibition) in a way that “plagiarism” or “derivation” between strangers might not be.


Rosa Loy Laika (2004) oil on canvas 210 x 120cm

NEO RAUCHQuiz 2002 Oil on linen 98.43 x 82.68 inches 250 x 210 cm RAUNE0044

Neo Rauch Quiz (2002) oil on linen  250 x 210 cm

Out of curiosity, I painted a half-assed doodle using techniques that are vaguely derived from looking at their work (in reproduction).


160811a Rauch Study (2016) oil on canvas 15 x 43cm

As a quick experiment, it was definitely worthwhile. It made me think about ways of defining edges, filling in colour, etc. that might be useful in future. However …

Rauch and Loy are german artists who grew up in communist east germany during the 1960s. The style of their work references the official socialist realist art of that time. This is significant to the meaning of their pictures. By contrast, I have no personal connection to that art and very little knowledge of its historical context. For me to borrow from socialist art via their work would change the meaning again, and the content of my work would need to make sense in that context. The risk would be that my work would simply look superficially derivative of two very popular current artists, taking the aesthetic but ignoring its significance.

I looked for examples of east german Socialist Realism, but not all of it bares resemblance to Loy or Rauch’s work. This poster at least has the richly coloured, high-contrast modelling of her boiler suit, and the economical illustrative rendering of the machine on the right, both of which are stylistic traits found in paintings by Loy and Rauch.


East german poster (1954) [anyone have more details on this poster? let me know, thanks!]

On reflection, my doodle shares very little with socialist realism, and has more in common with de Chirico (another influence on Rauch). Tracing these networks of influence gets complicated quickly. In practice, the best way to work through issues of “influence” and/or “plagiarism” seems to be: just keep painting. Eventually, if I’m lucky, something interesting might result.


Giorgio de Chirico Piazza d’Italia (1913) oil on canvas 25 x 32.5cm


5 thoughts on “Socialist realism via Rauch and Loy

  1. your half-assed way out of this quandary paid dividends Liam Cole. As you’ve alluded, it hardly matters when it’s a doodle whether you’re respecting their underpinnings.

    What’s nice is to see something in the few works of yours I’ve seen that is maybe recognisable as yours. I hope I’m neither imagining this up, nor trying to please you. I think not. Who knows, I’m here for a while and to keep on perving will please me.

    I’m warmly envious and aint going anywhere.



      • Liam, you’re full of hope and optimism. Yesss. And you’ve earned the privilige of being able to commit serious time to your art. I dont know anything about your practice or your ambit here, but your ongoing musings suggest that you’re not dabbling, and that even your doodling has purpose. You will create. The trick is to do this so that your whole being is engaged. It matters nought whether you feel your work is worthy of your effort, or comparable to some standards you’ve decided on. If you work as man who believes that he is an artist, and in a way which harnesses your heart and mind, you’ll succeed. Only you will be the judge. Passers-by, like me, who know jack shit about art or about your gizzards, can go fuck themselves. We can be pleased for ourselves in tasting what you do, and more so in understanding from your words, what you are thinking. And pleased for you, if you are making the progress you want. But it’s all about you. You have a healthy confidence, you are reflective, so it works for me. I’m on board as a happy freeloader.



      • Thanks Phil, I’m so lucky to have the time to put into this project, and I enjoy taking it seriously. It’s a challenge just to keep the process interesting to myself. If anyone else is even vaguely interested, that’s a bonus. Happy to have you here, as always.


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