© President and Fellows of Harvard College
Identification and Creation
Object Number
Heinz Trökes, German (Hamborn am Rhein, Germany 1913 - 1997 Berlin, Germany)
In the Air and in the Water
Other Titles
Original Language Title: In der Luft und im Wasser
Work Type
Physical Descriptions
Oil on canvas
62.1 x 74.6 cm (24 7/16 x 29 3/8 in.)
framed: 64 × 76.7 × 4.4 cm (25 3/16 × 30 3/16 × 1 3/4 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • Signed: l.r., in oil, Trökes 51
  • inscription: verso, German, signed, in artist's hand: In der Luft und im Wasser. Heinz Trökes, 1951
  • label: verso, t.l., on the frame: [Martha Jackson Gallery, NY label]
State, Edition, Standard Reference Number
Standard Reference Number
Krause 288, p. 156
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Busch-Reisinger Museum, Anonymous gift
Accession Year
Object Number
Modern and Contemporary Art
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Label Text: Inventur—Art in Germany, 1943–55 , written 2018
Playful irony in works such as this one reveal a spirit of creative liberation for artists who previously suffered Nazi censorship. Having trained under former Bauhaus master Johannes Itten, Trökes embraced elemental modes of modernist abstraction that were forbidden in Nazi Germany. Here, he rekindles avant-garde practices with elusive, floating shapes, reminiscent of the work of Catalan surrealist Joan Miró, that hint at figurative elements (a fish? a gondola? the sun?) while eschewing any precise identification. Such fluidity is additionally suggested by the work’s title. In the early 1950s, Trökes’s travels led him to create works imbued with a sense of pleasure absent in his earlier work: in this painting, made during a stay in Paris, irony is balanced by the pure enjoyment of form and color.

Publication History

Markus Krause, Heinz Trökes. Werkverzeichnis, Prestel Verlag (Munich, Germany, 2003), p. 156, cat. no. 288, no ill.

Lynette Roth and Ilka Voermann, Inventur—Art in Germany, 1943–55, exh. cat., Harvard Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2018), pp. 233-234, 236, cat. no. 24.3, ill. (color)

Exhibition History

German Painting 1760-1960: A New Installation, Busch-Reisinger Museum, Cambridge, 12/20/1983 - 02/19/1984

Inventur—Art in Germany, 1943–55, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 02/09/2018 - 06/03/2018

This record was created from historic documentation and may not have been reviewed by a curator; it may be inaccurate or incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Modern and Contemporary Art at am_moderncontemporary@harvard.edu