Von Bruenchenhein, born on 31 July 1910 in Wisconsin, lost his mother when he was only seven years old. He began working at an early age: as a florist, as a grocer, and then as a baker. His physical stature was small, and he worked daylong in the privacy–and total secrecy–of his kitchen, obsessively dedicating himself to his artistic work, persuaded that his birth during the year of the passage of Halley’s Comet was irrefutable proof that the gods had bestowed artistic genius on him. “I come from another world,” he would say. In 1943 he married Eveline Kalke, ten years his junior. She became his inspiring muse and the subject, direct and indirect, of all his art. He renamed her Marie. Photography then became his main medium. He made hundreds of portraits of Marie decked out with Christmas decorations, patterned fabric and copper crowns, in often-erotic poses, seated on a chair in front of a setting that had been cobbled together. Marie was goddess, then queen, film star, seducer and ingénue. Von Bruenchenhein developed his photographs in the basin of his bathroom, discovering the double exposure that gave his works a hint of Man Ray-style surrealism. He coloured other photographs by hand.
In parallel to his inexhaustible photographic creativity, he produced several conventional paintings. This branch of his artistic work was given a new boost when, profoundly affected by the development of the hydrogen bomb in 1954, Von Bruenchenhein began an experimental series of oil paintings, applying the paint with his hands or using brushes made of Marie’s hair. Von Bruenchenhein also began making sculptures using chicken and turkey bones.
Eugene Von Bruenchenhein’s work, discovered soon after his death on 24 January 1983 at the age of 72, was exhibited in September of the same year at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Wisconsin. In 1997, Harald Szeemann, curator of the biennale de Lyon, put a spot on him. In 2005, the Chicago exhibition Create and Be Recognized, Photography on the Edge not only used one of his adages for its title, but it also established his reputation as an artist and gained him the recognition of artists such as Cindy Sherman.
His clichés are prominently featured at the current Venice Biennale and recently an entire room was devoted to his work at the Hayward Gallery’s An Alternative Guide to the Universe in London.
photo | brut : collection bruno decharme et compagnie, les rencontres d’arles in collaboration with abcd and the american folk art museum (new york), les rencontres de la photographie, mécanique générale, from july 1st to september 22nd, 2019.
visionary architecture, lisbon architecture triennale, works of the treger/saint silvestre collection, oliva creative factory, sao joao da madeira, from may 14th to june 15th, 2019.
extravaganza, works of the treger saint silvestre collection, oliva creative factory, são joão da madeira, portugal, from april 13th to september 15th, 2019.
eugene von bruenchenhein : mythologies, from june 25th, 2017 to january 14th 2018, john michael kohler arts center, sheboygan, wisconsin.
the golden ratio laws, works from the collection treger/saint silvestre, oliva creative factory, são joão da madeira, portugal, from april 29th to september 30th, 2017.
the road less traveled exhibition. mythologies : eugene von bruenchenhein, from june 25th to december 31th 2017, john michael kohler arts center, sheboygan, wisconsin.
brut now: l'art brut au temps des technologies, from october 29th to january 16th, 2017, musées de belfort, belfort. curator christian berst, associated curator brut pop.
art brut : a story of individual mythologies, works from the treger saint silvestre collection, oliva creative factory, 18th june until 28th february 2017, são joão da madeira, portugal.
art brut, collection abcd/bruno decharme, from october 17th to january 18th, 2015, la maison rouge, paris.
art brut masterpieces et découvertes, carte blanche à bruno decharme, from october 21 to november 29th, 2014, christian berst art brut gallery, paris.
(OFF)ICIELLE, cité de la mode et du design, from october 22th to 26th, 2014, paris.
le mur, works from antoine de galbert's collection, from june 14th to september 21st 2014, la maison rouge, paris.
art brut : breaking the boundaries, works from the treger-saint silvestre collection, from june 1st to september 11th, 2014 curator : christian berst, oliva creative factory, são joão da madeira, portugal.
eugene von bruenchenhein : american beauty, christian berst art brut gallery, paris, from octobre 18th to novembre 23th, 2013.
55th venice biennale, giardini and arsenale, from june 1st to november 24th, 2013, venice.
women's studies,, from january 24th to may 26th 2013, american folk art museum, new york.
eugene von bruenchenhein: from the wand of the genii, from september 16th, 2011 to january 14th, 2012, intuit: the center for intuitive and outsider art, chicago.
eugene von bruenchenhein: freelance artist-poet and sculptor-innovator-arrow maker and plant man-bone artifacts constructor-photographer and architect-philosopher, from november 4th, 2010 to july 8th, 2011, american folk art museum, new york.
a world of their own: twentieth-century american folk art, newark museum, newark, u.s.a.
the liège international biennial of photography : biennale de l'image possible, 2016, liège, belgium.
photo|brut, collection bruno decharme & compagnie, paris, flammarion ed., abcd and the american folk art museum, 2019.
l'art brut, under the direction of martine lusardy, citadelles & mazenod, paris, 2018.
exhibition catalogue, eugene von bruenchenhein : mythologies, from june 25th, 2017 to january 14th, 2018, john michael kohler arts center, sheboygan, wisconsin, 2017.
exhibition catalogue, the golden ratio laws, works from the collection treger/saint silvestre, antonia gaeta, oliva creative factory, maiadouro, maia, 2017.
exhibition catalogue, brut now: l'art brut au temps des technologies, les presses du réel ed., musées de belfort, belfort, 2017.
bruno decharme and barbara safarova, art brut, collection abcd/bruno decharme, paris, flammarion, 2014.
exhibition catalogue, art brut collection abcd/bruno decharme, la maison rouge ed., paris, 2014.
la folie de l’art brut, roxana azimi, éditions séguier, 2014.
art brut masterpieces & découvertes : carte blanche à bruno Decharme, exhibition catalogue, paris, christian berst art brut ed., 2014.
le mur, works from antoine de galbert's collection, la maison rouge, exhibition cataogue, texts by antoine de galbert, anaël pigeat, sophie delpeux, paris, éditions fage, 2014.
exhibition catalogue, treger-saint silvestre collection, oliva creative factory, sao joao da madeira, paris, galerie christian berst art brut ed., 2014.
exhibition catalogue, eugene von bruenchenhein : american beauty, paris, christian berst art brut ed., 2013.
venice biennale, il palazzo enciclopedico, in.pagina srl, mestre (venice), 2013.
ralph rugoff, the alternative guide to the universe, hayward publishing, london, 2013.
sublime spaces & visionary worlds: built environments of vernacular artists, textes de leslie umberger, erika doss, ruth kohler, lisa stone, new york, princeton architectural press, 2007.
american anthem: masterworks from the american folk art museum, stacy c. hollander brooke, davis anderson, gerard c. wertkin, lee kogan, cheryl rivers, elizabeth v. warren, new york, harry n. abrams et american folk art museum, 2001.
squires, carol, "king of hearts", american photography, may-june 2000.
laurent danchin et martine lusardy, art outsider et folk art des collections de chicago, exhibition catalogue, paris, halle saint pierre, 1998.
the end is near, ex cat, 1998.
lisa stone, "eugene von bruenchenhein", in raw vision n° 10, 1994.
frank maresca and roger ricco, american-self-taught: painting and drawings by outsider artists, new york, alfred a. knopf, 1993.
eugene von bruenchenhein, fotografien, cologne, suzanne zander gallery, 1993.
eugene von bruenchenhein, obsessive visionary, sheboygan, john michael kohler arts center, 1988.
chuck and jan rosenak, museum of american folk art encyclopedia of twentieth-century american folk art and artists, new york, abbeville press, 1990.
biennale de l'image possible 2016, exhibition catalogue, éditions du caïd, 2016, pp. 78, 80, 81.
- American Folk Art Museum, New-York (United States)
- Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee (United States)
- Anthony Petullo Collection, Milwaukee (United States)
- High Museum of Art, Atlanta (United States)
- abcd collection, montreuil (France)
- Antoine de Galbert collection, Paris (France)
- Treger Saint Silvestre collection, Porto (Portugal)
- Smithsonian Museum Of American Art, Washington (United States)
- Intuit, The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art, Chicago (United States)
- John Michael Kohler Arts Center, Sheboygan (United States)
- Akron Art Museum, Akron (United States)
- Dammann collection, Bâle (Switzerland)
- Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia (United States)
- collection Sylvie and Stéphane Corréard, Paris (France)
selective press review
- cérémonie du portrait authors mathilde girard in artpress 2, september.
- relire bataille authors catherine millot in artpress 2, september 2017.
- par delà le territoire de la photographie authors Danielle Leenaerts in l'art même, august 1, 2016.
- l'art brut sous les feux des projecteurs authors la rédaction in La Tribune.fr, October 15, 2014.
- Eugene von Bruenchenhein n'a pas fini de nous étonner authors Yolande Finkelsztajn in Les cahiers de la photographie, September 2014.
- Art Paris Art Fair : l'autre foire d'art contemporain authors Véronique Bouruet-Aubertot in Télérama.fr, March 26 2014.
- L'art brut a sa place à Art Paris Art Fair authors la rédaction in AMA, March 26 2014.
- World's foremost annual show of Outsider art to run May 8-11, 2014 authors la rédaction in artdaily.com, March 20 2014.
- Eugene von Bruenchenhein, American beauty authors François Salmeron in parisArt.com, .
- Eugene von Bruenchenhein, American beauty authors Jules Naudet in L'oeil de la photographie, November 20 2013.
- Eugene von Bruenchenhein – American Beauty authors Bénédicte Philippe in Télérama sortir.fr, November 15 2013.
- Von Bruenchenhein, au nom de Marie authors Dominique Poiret in Libération, November 8 2013.
- De l'art et une belle histoire d'amour authors in Le journal de la parisienne, November 2013.
- A la gloire de Marie authors Dominique Poiret in Libération.fr, October 23 2013.
- Eugene von Bruenchenhein, American beauty authors Mikaël Demets in Time out , October 29 2013.
- L'éternelle beauté de la femme aimée (Bruenchenhein) authors Lunettes rouges in blog Amateur d'art par lunettes rouges, October 23 2013.
- American Beauty, l’exposition art brut tout en finesse authors in Paris Select.com, October 23 2013.
- Eugene von Bruenchenhein, galerie christian berst authors Philippe Dagen in Le Monde, October 20 and 21 2013.
- galerie christian berst, ma femme est une bombe authors Emmanuelle Lequeux in Beaux Arts n°353, November 2013.
- une photo "brute" authors Marie Zawisza in L'Oeil, November 2013.
- Ruée vers l'art brut authors Noémie Barré, photos Nathalie Baetens in Coté Paris n°29, october-november 2013.
- Eugene von Bruenchenhein, American beauty authors in La Gazette de Drouot, October 14 2013.
- Eugene + Marie authors in Alabama Chanin journal, October 14 2013.
- consécration posthume authors Stéphane Corréard in Libération next n° 10076, October 5 2013.