In the course of over 6000 unscripted lectures given during his life, Rudolf Steiner often made use of blackboard sketches; sometimes to emphasise a term, or to draw attention to a name or a date; at other times to build up or resolve a complex set of circumstances for the listener, or even just to enliven a thought by a drawn gesture. Very often, these initially quite simple sketches were added to and worked with over the course of the lecture, so that by the end an ‘imaginative, colourful, flowing, complete picture’ (Assja Turgenieff) would come about.
The fact that around 1,100 of these blackboard drawings have been preserved is thanks to the initiative of one particular member of Steiner’s audience, Emma Stolle, who urged the conveners to put black paper on the surface of the blackboards from around 1916 onwards. The lecturer often had two or even three blackboards at his disposal that were prepared in this way.
When the lecture was over, the black and white or coloured chalk drawings were set on the paper with fixative, dated and stored.
Since their first exhibition outside the archive at the Gallery Monika Sprüth in Cologne in the summer of 1992, Steiner’s blackboard drawings have been on view in many prestigious museums. It is probably the extraordinary spiritual presence of these drawings and the immediacy of their pictorial effect which have made this late discovery of Steiner for and by today’s art scene possible.
Thoughts on The Blackboard Exhibitions
The blackboard drawings with titles such as “The other eye of the gods” or “Colourful thoughts in black” are powerful and concrete. Colourful, dynamic forms, supplemented by numbers and words, recall Leonardo da Vinci’s building plans, the montages of Russian constructivists or the works of Art brut.
Guido Magnaguangno, director of the Tinguely Museum in Basel, said: “The blackboard drawings represent an inexhaustible source of creative thinking and drawing which will hopefully stimulate many artists and increasing numbers of art lovers among the public to engage in that form of higher human creativity which according to Rudolf Steiner and Joseph Beuys is imagination, inspiration and intuition.”
"Since they are all exactly the same size, all the energy we use for looking by-passes the formal obstacles to be immediately captured by the black surfaces. On or above many of these surfaces there are suspended in wonderful lightness gentle pastel colours. Many surfaces are covered with white chalk writing, all of them calling to mind that once they served a purpose, that they are frozen moments of unfolding spiritual energy, of ebb and flow."
"The exhibition moved many people and it carries a message: one does not need to be an anthroposophist to be able to read it. It is the message of the one source of energy which the whole world acknowledges – and only a child of our materialistic age could interpret that in a materialistic way. Here we feel the spiritual force of a holistic approach which really does make it possible to see the same energy at work in economic courses on values and prices as in reflections on the working of the spirit in nature. These blackboard drawings with their firm link to Beuys – the visual experience is, indeed, much the same – these enchantingly gentle energy fields were neither understood as snapshots of calligraphy nor as graphical works of art. But they bear witness to the wholeness of a being which is defined wherever it comes to expression, which can never deny itself."
Basler Zeitung, 19 June 1993
Books and Catalogues about Rudolf Steiners Blackboard Drawings
Rudolf Steiner, Wandtafelzeichnungen zum Vortragswerk.
R. Steiner Verlag, Dornach
These 28 volumes contain the complete collection of all blackboard drawings which have been preserved (1200 works).
Wenn die Erde Mond wird
Edited by Walter Kugler, Du Mont Verlag, Cologne