Sibylle Ruppert

Sibylle Ruppert


Sibylle Ruppert was born during an air raid on September 8th, 1942. It was the night of the first massive bombing of Frankfurt during World War II. With a numbered tag around her neck, Sibylle was, immediately, whisked from the maternity ward down to the bomb shelter in the basement, while her mother was moved to safety under a supporting column of the hospital staircase.

She spent her infancy between the nursery and an improvised bomb shelter in which plaster fell from the ceiling whenever the bombs hit the neighborhood. In spring 1944 her parents decided to flee Frankfurt for the countryside. Sibylle’s first memories were of the shoving and screaming crowds on the platform of the train station desperately trying to climb into the overcrowded wagons.

Although the family spent the remainder of the war in relative security, they were subjected to mistreatment and greed at the hands of the farmers who gave them shelter. After the war, they were taken in by an aristocratic family that owned a castle, and Sibylle spent her early childhood years as if in a dream world. Her father was a graphic designer and young Sibylle spent hours upon hours near his desk watching as he drew. One day she seized his hand and promised him that she would paint nice colorful pictures just like him. Her first drawing surprised everyone, it was a brutal illustration of a fist striking the middle of a face – she was 6 years old.

At age of 10, she had religious enlightenment and she insisted on becoming a nun. Only the great efforts of her parents managed to dissuade her from taking up a novitiate. In school, she was not the best, except in her art classes where she far surpassed all the other students to such an extent that her instructors could not believe she painted the pictures by herself. Secretly, she took the entrance examination of the Städel Akkademie and passed it with brilliance. With the support of Prof. Battke she worked relentlessly and created up to 20 drawings a day.

Sitting immobile, continuously, behind the drawing board she gained extra weight, so her mother signed her up in the neighborhood ballet school. Sibylle tackled her new activity with the same energy and willpower as she did the drawing, which prompted the school authorities to give her a choice: either art or dance, but not both at the same time. As soon as she turned 18 she solved the problem her own way by escaping to Paris, the city of her dreams, where she enrolled in a dance school in Clichy. During the day she followed the strict regimen of her classes, but at night she roamed the notorious streets of Pigalle and Montmartre, fascinated by the unusual characters in these neighborhoods.

As she was too tall for classical ballet she joined the famous dance ensemble of Georges Rech. This was the beginning of an adventurous life as a chorus girl touring all over Europe and the Middle East. But while her colleagues relaxed, Sibylle visited all the local museums and galleries and continued drawing every free minute. Then, all of a sudden, in New York, she decided to abandon her dancing career. She returned to her family in Frankfurt and started working as a drawing instructor at the art school founded by her father.
In addition to teaching, at night she pursued her own personal work, inspired by the „divine“ Marquis de Sade and his frightful universe. Encouraged by notable German intellectuals such as Peter Gorsen, Theodor Adorno, and Horst Glaser (whom she later married), her drawings started to become well known. The exhibitions organized by the Sydow – Zirkwitz Gallery in Frankfurt consternated as much the traditional art audience as they produced raised eyebrows among the intellectuals.

In 1976 she moved to Paris and exhibited her large-format charcoal drawings, inspired by the writings of de Sade, Lautréamont, and Georges Bataille, and her collages and paintings at the Gallery Bijan Aalam. French intellectuals and great minds like Alain Robbe-Grillet, Pierre Restany, Henri Michaux, and Gert Schiff were fascinated by her work and tried to interpret her infernal world. When the gallery closed in 1982, she returned to teaching drawing and painting. She started giving art classes in prisons, mental hospitals, and drug addiction rehabilitation centers. She later lived in Paris, withdrawn from public life.

Sibylle Ruppert died in 2011.