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Peter Dreher, Tag um Tag Guter Tag Nr. 0 (Day by Day, Good Day Nr. 0), 1972.
Peter Dreher, Tag um Tag Guter Tag Nr. 0 (Day by Day, Good Day Nr. 0), 1972.

Peter Dreher (1932–2020)

German artist Peter Dreher, who had painted the same drinking glass in his studio every day since 1974, has died at age eighty-seven. His ten-by-eight-inch pictures of the glass, which exceed five thousand, make up the series “Tag um Tag Guter Tag” (Day by Day, Good Day). Their similar compositions and neutral palettes draw viewers’ attention to minute differences, such as light, facture, and reflection. Writing on the daily exercise in the September 2014 issue of Artforum, Emily Hall lauded Dreher’s ability to make “this simple thing deeply unsimple.” She wrote that his project was “both the same and different every day, an aggregate of still paintings and temporal movement, like a decades-long filmstrip that follows no logic and evinces no progression.”

Born in Mannheim in 1932, Dreher studied at the Kunstakademie Karlsruhe with Karl Hubbuch and Erich Heckel in the 1950s. From 1968 to 1997, he taught painting at the State Academy of Fine Arts Karlsruhe, Freiburg, where he counted Anselm Kiefer and Wolfgang Laib among his students. Dreher shared with his compatriots Sigmar Polke and Gerhard Richter an aesthetic interest in the influx of American Pop art and goods into postwar West Germany. But rather than participating in their brand of Capitalist Realism, Dreher turned to the serial form of an everyday object to index his drive to paint. His work—which also includes paintings of skulls, flowers, and landscapes—has been collected by numerous museums around the world, and he was represented by Berlin’s König Galerie.

Dreher talked about his experiences teaching in the 1960s in a BOMB interview with Lynne Tillman in 1996, recalling how his students believed that “painting wasn’t necessary anymore, at least not as long as the revolution and the development of society didn’t succeed. As long as that struggle was going on, you had to do that work—revolution—and not paint.”

He continued: “I tried not to paint anymore, but I couldn’t. . . . I tried to find a way to show that I must paint, that there are people in the world who have this desire and cannot deny it.”