Eugene von Bruenchenhein was born and grew up in Marinette (Wisconsin), where he spent most of his working life employed in a bakery. Ever hopeful of success, the self-taught artist developed his own unique painting technique: using his fingers to rapidly manipulate the thin wet oil paint, he created magical swirls and twists of bright, visionary colours. These organic shapes represent deep-sea, monsters, spiky plants and, later, cities and floral forms.
In the 1950s, at the height of the Cold War, he expressed his fear of nuclear attack by painting apocalyptic scenes of mushroom clouds and luminous depictions of fallout.
Eugene was a prolific photographer. In the early 1940s, after setting up a provisional darkroom in his bathroom, he started to photograph his wife, Marie, at home. Nevertheless, his photographs extended past the walls of their bedroom. Repurposing leftover materials as backdrops and props, Von Bruenchenhein created transformative stages for Marie to pose on; he invited her to dress up in exotic costumes. Many of these portraits evoke the “pin up” girls of the 1950s. As the main object of attraction, Marie coyly confronts the viewer to question the relationship between photographer and subject, husband and wife, artist and muse. By the mid 1950s, these intimate shots had reached the thousands.
He also made home-fired clay masks and concrete sculptures, and used recycled chicken and turkey bones to construct towers and chairs.

1) Marie, 1960, © Henri Boxer Gallery
2) Untitled, 1940, © Andrew Edlin Gallery
3) Untitled, March 17, 1958, © Carl Hammer Gallery
4) Untitled, 1960-1980, © Andrew Edlin Gallery

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