Karl Hurm comes from the area between the Black Forest and the Swabian Alps in South Germany, where the steep hillsides are thickly clad in darkly dramatic woodland, full of mysterious, fairy-tale vistas. The fields, forests, rivers and villages with their strange myths and tales provide him with inspirational images. But although Hurm’s narratives undoubtedly allude to the Brothers Grimm, there is nothing sinister or dark about his work; on the contrary, it is bright and joyful.
Born in 1930, Hurm had a natural talent for drawing and painting, but never received any formal art teaching. Instead he went into the family’s retail business, and stayed there until 1970, when his health deteriorated. Compelled to work from home, he decided to return to his first love – painting. Success came rapidly, yet, to this day he remains entirely self-taught.
Like many self-taught painters he has an exceptionally strong individual style and is astonishingly imaginative, possibly because no tutors have imposed their personal ideas or style on his development. Art experts like to place artists into categories, schools or styles, but Hurm’s unique work defies convenient pigeonholes, therefore it gets urm’s work categorised as magic realism, naïve or primitive. It dips a colourful brush into each category, but has come to be predominantly associated with the naive genre.
His work has featured in all major publications about German naïve art, and he has participated in numerous solo and group exhibitions outside Germany, including the UK, Switzerland, Austria, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Cyprus, Poland, Russia, Dominican Republic, Japan, and the USA.
Although his paintings are full of fantasy, with dream-like, often quite surreal qualities, the metamorphosis of reality is not absolute – some of the paintings are based on observations – but they all contain an idiosyncratic private world, full of charm, gentle humour and a strange beauty.
Anatole Jakovsky, who established the Museum of Naïve Art, in Nice (which has exhibited Hurm’s work) once wrote: ‘Naïve painting is neither of yesterday nor of today, but timeless. Perhaps of tomorrow, who knows?’
In 1998 the Ölmühle Städtisches Kunstmuseum was opened in Karl Hurm’s birthplace of Haigerloch, where he still lives and works. The museum has honoured him with a permanent exhibition of 220 of his works, so powerfully influenced by the surroundings and culture.