Ulrich Gleiter (b. 1977) is a citizen of the world. Born in Saarbrücken, Germany, he pursued his undergraduate studies at Dresden’s Academy of Fine Arts, where he learned to paint with the bold, colorful strokes handed down from the early 20th-century German expressionists. Students there prioritized their individuality — no one but you could have made this picture, they were told.
Gleiter then absorbed a different view of artistry during his exchange year at Moscow’s Surikov Institute, followed by six more years at the Repin Institute in St. Petersburg. Russian training emphasizes mastery of the process of drawing and painting the nude — not as precisely as in U.S. ateliers, but with more emphasis on how relative value is established by the play of light and shadow.
Despite the international renown of their country’s naturalist landscapists, Russian professors do not actually teach plein air painting, instead encouraging students to make a picture outdoors every day if possible. Gleiter was glad to do so, relying heavily on such historical forerunners as Isaak Levitan.
Today Gleiter divides time between Germany, Russia, and the United States, where he has become much admired among plein-airists in such scenic places as Colorado, California, and Wyoming. Wherever he goes, Gleiter paints in all kinds of weather, with a special fondness for woodlands and meadows. The painting illustrated here was made last summer in Russia’s Caucasus mountains, though he could just as readily have made it in the Republic of Georgia, Greece, Italy, or even Crimea, with its Mediterranean climate.
In our era of diplomatic tensions, when Crimea and Russia appear regularly in the headlines, Gleiter feels a renewed appreciation for nature’s timelessness — for its inspiring capacity to rise above the ins and outs of man-made problems. Today, he says, “I often think about the history of an area where I am painting, about how many troubles and beautiful things may have happened there. Most importantly, I am humbled to observe how natural forces never stop moving.”
Gleiter turns his searching eye not only to wilderness, but also to the banalities of urban life — to parked cars, the glinting sprawl of an automobile dealer’s lot, retail stores, and even cargo ships. There, too — as in his portraits, nudes, and still lifes — he manages to find abstracted beauty and emotional significance in the interactions of light, color, and air.
View more paintings by Ulrich Gleiter at ulrichgleiter.com.