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Sophie von Hellermann Biography

Sophie von Hellermann is a German painter known for rendering romantic portraits and airy pastel landscapes inspired by contemporary icons and literature.

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Early Years

Born in Munich, von Hellermann studied at the Kunstakademie in Düsseldorf from 1993 to 1998, before taking on an MFA at the Royal College of Art in London, where she graduated in 2001.

Von Hellermann held her first solo show at Saatchi Gallery, London in 2001, showing a selection of works that drew divided reviews from critics.

Sophie von Hellermann Artworks

Sophie von Hellermann's paintings are known for their childlike quality. They depict illustrated figures in fictional spaces, rendered in light strokes and soft pastel shades.

Early Works

Von Hellermann's interest in popular culture started from her days in Dusseldorf, where she collaborated with other painters and musicians under the name 'Hobbypop', staging multi-media installations based on ironic references to contemporary culture.

One notable Hobbypop event included a painting show featuring works by von Hellermann and fellow artist Markus Vater posing as Ulrike Meinhof and Andrea Baader, infamous German terrorists who died in custody in the 1970s. Featuring works signed by 'Ulrike' and 'Andrea', the exhibition posited an alternative timeline in which the pair survived and turned into painters.

Reimagined Icons

Von Hellerman's subsequent subjects borrow from pop culture icons, as with her paintings of the Velvet Underground singer and Warhol protégé Nico, who passed away from mysterious circumstances in Ibiza. In 2004, paintings on show at Vilma Gold Gallery in London as part of the exhibition On the Ground paid homage to the vocalist and heroin addict by reimagining her life and legacy.

Amongst the included paintings, Christo Paffgen (2003), titled after the birth name of the singer, shows the portrait of a pensive young woman set in a pastoral landscape, imbued in the glow of youth, preceeding all excesses.

Goddess in the Doorway

In 2005, von Hellermann held her first solo exhibition in New York at Greene Naftali, exhibiting a series of figurative portraits prompted by the 100th anniversary of Albert Einstein's formulation of the theory of relativity in 1905.

The exhibition, titled Goddess in the Doorway, was inspired by a series of correspondence between Albert Einstein and his wife, which led von Hellermann to become interested in the scientist's personal life, imagining a kind of muse for the thinker.

The painting Good Space Girl (2005) depicts one of such muses inside a translucent spaceship. With a dark green dress and golden hair, the figure's bare leg is lifted in the air to show her red toenail polish.

Narrative and Process

Von Hellerman's figures and scenes are spread generously across the unprimed canvas, using a technique that incorporates staining and rapid gestures with acrylic paint and large brushes.

Recalling the Chinese novel Dream of the Red Chamber (1791), von Hellermann painted a series of scenes based on the storybook from her childhood, shown at Pilar Corrias, London in an exhibition of the same name in 2021.

Paintings in the exhibition recreate celebratory scenes through a whirl of fluid strokes in soft tones of orange, yellow, and red. They feature a blur of fictional characters performing the dragon dance, as in Tiger (2021), or flying kites beside peach trees, as in Flying Kites (2021).

Exhibitions

Sophie von Hellerman has been the subject of both solo and group exhibitions.

Select solo exhibition include Pilar Corrias, London (2020, 2018); Wentrup, Berlin (2019); Greene Naftali, New York (2019, 2013); Office Baroque, Brussels (2017); Vilma Gold, London (2015); Le Consortium, Dijon (2010); and Saatchi Gallery, London (2001).

Selected group exhibitions include Hayward Gallery, London (2021); Elmhurst Art Museum, Berlin (2019); Bonner Kunstverein, Bonn (2016); Jerwood Visual Arts, London (2015); Tate Britain, London (2011); Art on the Underground, London (2008); British Council, Athens (2004); and Centre Pompidou, Paris (2002).

Instagram

The artist's Instagram can be found here.

Elaine YJ Zheng | Ocula | 2022

Sophie von Hellermann
featured artworks

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Sweet Dreams are made of this by Sophie von Hellermann contemporary artwork painting
Sophie von Hellermann Sweet Dreams are made of this, 2024 Double-sided, acrylic on canvas, wood
200 x 320 cm
Sies + Höke Request Price & Availability
Wisteria Hysteria by Sophie von Hellermann contemporary artwork painting
Sophie von Hellermann Wisteria Hysteria, 2021 Acrylic on canvas
200 x 190 cm
Greene Naftali Request Price & Availability
Muse by Sophie von Hellermann contemporary artwork painting
Sophie von Hellermann Muse, 2023 Acrylic on canvas
73.7 x 100.3 cm
Greene Naftali Request Price & Availability
Carve by Sophie von Hellermann contemporary artwork painting
Sophie von Hellermann Carve, 2024 Acrylic on canvas
140 x 160 cm
Sies + Höke Request Price & Availability
Double Life by Sophie von Hellermann contemporary artwork painting
Sophie von Hellermann Double Life, 2023 Acrylic on canvas
140 x 160 cm
Pilar Corrias Request Price & Availability
I hated her by Sophie von Hellermann contemporary artwork painting
Sophie von Hellermann I hated her, 2022 Acrylic on canvas
130 x 150 cm
Pilar Corrias Request Price & Availability
Out of touch by Sophie von Hellermann contemporary artwork painting
Sophie von Hellermann Out of touch, 2022 Acrylic on canvas
200 x 190 cm
Pilar Corrias Request Price & Availability
Harvest by Sophie von Hellermann contemporary artwork painting
Sophie von Hellermann Harvest, 2022 Acrylic on canvas
180 x 230 cm
Pilar Corrias Request Price & Availability
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Sophie von Hellermann
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