Who is Wolfgang Degenhardt?

By Gwylym Owen

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Wolfgang Degenhardt (19 May 1924 – 8 November 1993) was an artist, prominent in Newcastle located in the Hunter Region of New South Wales, Australia. Husband of Irene Degenhardt (17 August 1921 – 22 March 2016).

Degenhardt was born in Germany, studied art in Bremen and Milan. He migrated to Greta, New South Wales in the Hunter Valley in January 1955, with his wife Irene and son Fred and stepson Alex after the second world war. Shortly after arriving in Australia. He worked at BHP steel works, in the coke ovens as portion of the immigration program at the time, which required people to function for two years in an industry fixed by the Australian Government. A year after arriving in Australia, he built his own home on Warners Bay Road, Charlestown. It was hard work, as the acre block he selected, was dense Australian bush land. To determined the block he used hand saws and an axe. He built the home with a little loan from the Commonwealth Bank, coming home after his shift at BHP to cut timbers and paint. The house has remained relatively unchanged to this day.

Over the years he presented one of his paintings to every man who retired from the Newcastle Steel Works coke ovens department using art supplies unqualified to him by BHP, he became very competently known for this. He worked for the BHP for 35 years previously retiring.

Degenhardt won the inaugural Newcastle Art Prize and was a regional winner of Maitland Art Prize. He presented a one-man exhibitions at Barry Stern Galleries 1968, Sydney and Lights Gallery, Newcastle 1963. He was a frequent contributor to the Blake Prize for Religious Art. He is represented in many private collections throughout the world.

Degenhardt was featured within newspapers, journals and upon NBN and ABC television as his artwork became prominent. He painted in many alternative styles including impressionism, expressionism, landscapes & portraits.

There are two drawings in the Newcastle Region Art Gallery’s collection.

The Forgotten I. 1963

Victim III. 1972

Irene, born in Cologne, Germany. A writer for the Mavis Branson show, met Wolfgang whilst travelling in the deed years. She was held responsible for organising his gallery appearances and named many of his works.

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