Until 1969, artists in the German Democratic Republic were subject to rigorous government restrictions. When these were relaxed in 1971 – the year this self-portrait was painted – Tübke rose to become the most prominent painter of the Leipzig School, and thus of the GDR. He expresses his newly strengthened sense of self-confidence in this painting, showing himself in the process of completing a fresco of Adam and Eve. In Old Masterly manner, he constructs a semicircle whose radius extends from the tip of the brush to Adam’s right index finger, thus referencing the otherworldly, divine sphere. The painting demonstrates the degree to which the artist, in his role as creator, sheds the realist style demanded by the state authorities and – distancing himself from socialist specifications – perfectly imitates and combines Renaissance and Mannerist styles.
In 2008 Fritz and Waltraud Mayer of Frankfurt donated several important works by prominent painters of the former German Democratic Republic – for example Wolfgang Mattheuer, Werner Tübke and Arno Rink – to the Städel’s Department of Contemporary Art from their private collection, thus filling a major gap in the museum’s holdings. The gift was accompanied by an outstandingly generous contribution towards the expansion of the Städel, and by the announcement that the Mayers intended to continue supporting the Städelscher Museums-Verein in the future.