Rainer Bonar(Rainer Lietzke)

Photograph: Rainer Bonar: self-portrait
Rainer Bonar: self-portrait (undated)
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2015

Rainer Bonar(Rainer Lietzke)

Bornon 29 February 1956 in Berlin, German Democratic Republic
Diedon 27 November 1996 in Berlin, Federal Republic of Germany
ExileFederal Republic of Germany
ProfessionPainter, Graphic designer

Rainer Bonar (real name Rainer Lietzke) often caused offence, deliberately. He was arrested for the first time by the GDR authorities in 1973, when he painted his triptych Schießbefehl. He burned the work before the Stasi arrived, but he was still interrogated and remanded in custody for two days. From 1973, Bonar attended evening classes at Weißensee Art College, having to interrupt his studies from 1975 to 1976 to perform his military service. He also painted in the army, supposedly undetected. However, the pictures that Bonar and his friend Gerd Sonntag created did not chime with the official art politics of the GDR. The military leadership had the pictures destroyed, and Bonar was arrested for the second time. “You are an abscess on the arse of the Republic,” one colonel informed him.

In 1976, Bonar was dishonourably discharged from the army. He continued his evening studies in Berlin while working as a painter in the State Opera. For an exhibition at Weißensee Art College in 1977, Bonar painted the musician and writer Wolf Biermann as a heroic, dead soldier shortly after his expatriation. As a direct consequence, Bonar was not allowed to continue his studies. After multiple emigration applications, in 1981 he was finally able to leave for West Germany, and he officially changed his name to Rainer Bonar. In West Berlin, Bonar remained true to himself: he instigated political discussions, particularly at the Association for Visual Artists (BBK) and fought against the trivialisation of the GDR regime. After reunification, he kept up this fight until his suicide in 1996 by naming perpetrators and continually reiterating that the victims had suffered under the GDR dictatorship.

Further reading:
Schmidt, Werner (Hg.): Ausgebürgert. Künstler aus der DDR und aus dem Sowjetischen Sektor Berlins 1949-1989. Berlin: Argon 1990