56 Group Wales:The Founders

Heinz Koppel (1919 - 1980)


Trevor Bates

Heinz Koppel was born in Berlin on 29 January 1919. With the rise of the Nazis in 1933, the Koppels, like many Jewish families, fled to Czechoslovakia. His invalid mother stayed behind in Prague and was later deported to the Treblinka extermination camp where she perished. The rest of the family moved onto London in the late 1930s and, during his first year there, young Heinz became a pupil of Martin Bloch at the School of Contemporary Painting and Drawing.

Influenced by the German Expressionist movement, Koppel's growing reputation was such that he was given the opportunity to exhibit at Jack Bilbo's prestigious Modern Art Gallery of London, together with artists Jankel Adler, Oskar Kokoschka and Kurt Schwitters.

In 1956 he co-founded the 56 Group and two years later the gallery owner Helen Lessore hosted the first of Koppel's three one person shows at her Beaux Arts Gallery in London.

There followed a series of lectureships at Camberwell School of Art, Hornsey College of Art and Liverpool College of Art. He exhibited many times, including at the 56 Group-dominated show in Washington DC in 1965 and the 56 Group Wales show in Dublin in 1968.

In 1969 he and his artist wife Renate 'Pip' Koppel bought a farmhouse in Cwmerfyn, near Aberystwyth and by 1974 they and their family were to live there permanently. Heinz Koppel died on 1 December 1980.

The works of Heinz Koppel can be found in the following collections:-

Amgueddfa Cymru-National Museum Wales, Cardiff; Ben Uri Gallery, London; Bodelwyddan Castle Trust, Denbighshire; Cyfarthfa Castle Museum and Art Gallery, Merthyr Tydfil; Koppel Family Collection; Newport Museum and Art Gallery, Newport; Tate, London; other public and private collections.