“When I paint the sky and the stars, I feel at peace. The galaxy is my past and my future.”
Rotraut Klein-Moquay, known as Rotraut, stands as a prominent German-French visual artist renowned for her unique non-objective style that finds its roots in organic, earthly forms. Her artistic career began during her adolescence in Düsseldorf, where she lived with her brother, the established artist Günther Uecker.
In 1958, a new chapter in her life began when Rotraut relocated to Nice, working as an au-pair for the family of the renowned artist Arman. This move would prove fateful, for it was there that she crossed paths with her future husband, the French conceptual artist Yves Klein, a seminal figure in the post-war European art scene. Their union proved transformative, with Rotraut donning various roles—from assistant to model and muse for Klein. In 1959, Rotraut, whose early work focused on drawing and painting, often composed in a medium she refers to as “pâte”—flour paste—led her aesthetically to creating wall-reliefs. She received her first solo exhibition at the New Visions Center gallery, in London, which marked a significant milestone in the artist’s career path. However, tragedy struck in 1962 when her husband met his untimely death at age thirty-four, leaving Rotraut, then twenty-four, pregnant with their son, in charge of preserving a lasting legacy for his groundbreaking work.
A decade later, her work garnered long overdue recognition, in particular, for her heralded celestial “Galaxies” painting series. In 1975, the Kaiser Wilhelm Museum Krefeld held a solo show of her work and, in 1977, she was invited to participate in a group exhibition held at the Centre George Pompidou in Paris in celebration of the museum’s inauguration.
In a major stylistic divergence during the 1990s, Rotraut turned from her two-dimensional work, to creating monumental monochromatic sculptures. Made from a variety of materials—marble, iron, aluminium, and bronze, wood—with surfaces in resplendent colors, the sculptures’ organic shapes subtly evoke magnified elements of flora and fauna from the natural world.
Most recently, in 2016, the Friedrich Schiller University Jena in Germany organized a major retrospective of her work. Rotraut currently divides her time between her studio in Arizona, France, and Germany.
Rotraut’s work has been included in numerous solo and group exhibitions and public installations, including the Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix (2021); Fondation Linda et Guy Pieters, Saint Tropez, France (2021); Centre Pompidou Metz, France (2020); the Louisiana Museum, Humlebaek, Denmark; and the Palazzo Ducale, Geneva. Her art is held in numerous collections internationally including the Musée d’art moderne et d’art contemporain in Nice, the Kaiser Wilhelm Museum in Krefeld, and the Centre Pompidou in Paris.