Silent movie interview

In 2015, Artvergnügen Gallery visited Robert Nippoldt in his studio for an interview.

Click here for the whole interview


Robert, what fascinates you so much about the 1920s?

No era in recent German history is as clearly defined as the period between the two world wars. There was a terrible beginning and a catastrophic end. In between, however, it was an incomparably intense and productive period that saw groundbreaking innovations in all cultural fields, whether in music, theater, literature, architecture, fashion, or film. The people of Europe knew that the political and economic situation was exceedingly unstable. Everyone wanted to enjoy life. It was the proverbial "dance on the volcano."

Have you always wanted to be an artist?

Dinosaur researcher, professional athlete, physiotherapist were my early career aspirations. After graduating from high school I first studied law, but fortunately after one semester I changed to the design department at the University of Applied Sciences in Münster.

Which of your works are you particularly proud of?

My very first book, "Gangster. The Bosses of Chicago." It was the final project of my graphic design studies. I did it without the support of a publisher or an author. I walked around the Frankfurt Book Fair with this book under my arm. It opened the door to my first publishing house and was the beginning of a big trilogy about the 20s/30s in the USA with the themes of crime/prohibition in Chicago, jazz in New York and Hollywood.

How did you get into art? Does your enthusiasm for art run in your family? How did it develop in you?

Our grandfather painted, was a Zille fan and a dialect poet himself. My grandmother was born in Paris and was very interested in fashion. My father comes from Kassel and so we were loyal visitors to the Documenta as children. My mother once won a bicycle in a painting competition as a child. My sister became an artist and my little sister is studying art education. So you could say that my family has something to do with art. My favorite thing to draw as a child was how the great white shark fights with the orca.

What excites you besides art?

I never get bored! I can distract myself very well with all kinds of leisure activities, among others with my two daughters or with my band Kernspaltung, apnoea diving or the self-organized "Iron Johnny Triathlon". Professionally, my book projects form the core of my work. Other pillars are the production of silkscreen editions and of course the normal commission business, for which I founded Studio Nippoldt together with my partner Christine and my sister Astrid.

You live and work in Münster. What do you associate with the city?

Münster is the city where I studied and where I have built up an established studio community. It is manageable and allows me to live together with my family and many friends in a large house with a garden. I have never been drawn to Berlin, even though I am often there for research.

How do you create your works? Which material do you prefer to work with?

My passion is - as you can easily see from my books - the portrait and the figure. At the moment I am developing a drawing technique that is new to me. Here I draw figures in motion in one sweep with the ink brush and thus put the dynamics of the scene into the picture. That needs sometimes 40-50 attempts per motive, until it fits. So far, a large series of dance drawings. I also offer them individually as originals. Soon I would like to refine this technique and extend it to other motifs.

Do you have a favorite book?

"Mr. Korbes wants to kiss little chicken" by Janosch.

Is there an artistic goal you are pursuing?

To be immortally rich, and disgustingly famous. (laughs)

Do you have an artistic role model?

The first things that come to mind are the works of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Aubrey Beardsley and George Grosz, whose great admirers I am. I still find Lautrec's and Grosz's precise character studies, and Beardsley's black-and-white compositions, incredibly inspiring.

Are you very critical of your work?

During our new stage show, "An Enigmatic Shimmer. Berlin of the 20s in a poetic amusement show", which we just developed in the run-up to my new book project, this self-critical voice is constantly haunting my mind. In other respects, too, I have quite perfectionist standards for my works. Whereby that is always also a question of evaluation - sometimes the dilettantish can be just right. The art is to strike the fine line between control and looseness.

Where do you find inspiration?

A lot in books, archives, with other artists and especially through conversations and activities with colleagues, friends and especially with my wife Christine.

You also teach at the University of Applied Sciences Münster and the Academy Regensburg. What appeals to you about teaching?

The role of the smart-ass authority. (grins)

What motif would you like to draw?

The Borussia Dortmund team and Barack Obama.

Can you imagine working with other artists?

I am a group person. I need the hustle and bustle and the company of others for inspiration and shared fun. In recent years, a small tribe of colleagues, including artists, illustrators, and musicians, has come together where we consult with each other and with whom I collaborate at times. A few years ago, as I said, Studio Nippoldt emerged from this, a project of my sister, my life partner and me, in which we carry out design commissions together in addition to our respective individual artistic work. For stage performances, I've teamed up with the Just Jazz Trio.

Do you prefer to work freely or according to commissions?

As always, it's the mixture that counts. I actually work permanently on self-initiated, longer-term and sometimes lengthy projects, such as my books or the development of matching stage performances (readings, live drawing acts, concert image shows, etc.). In between, I'm also happy about a clear, simple, quick to complete job. Preferably, of course, one that still gives me all the freedom and has no time pressure.

What art hangs in your apartment?

Mainly the drawings of my children.

Do you plan your motifs or do you leave them to chance?

They all go back to very extensive research work. But as always when searching, I also discover pictures and stories by chance, which I then gratefully take up.

Are there any future projects you might already tell us about?

My next big book project will be about the night in Berlin in the 20s, the center of Europe at that time, a scapegoat and melting pot of people, stories and cultural explosions.