“This is what I…feel about painting, something is revealed that otherwise would not be known.” (1970)
The precise, mysterious painting style of Christiane Pflug has led to her categorization as a magical realist. A devoted mother of two, her subject matter was often dictated by the objects and viewpoints available to her in her domestic space. Themes of nostalgia, melancholia, and tradition occur throughout her work.
Born in Second World War-era Germany to a single mother, Pflug spent most of her young life in foster homes in Bavaria, Germany and Austria. Her mother had volunteered as a Red Cross nurse, sending a four year-old Christiane away to keep her safe from the violence of Berlin. Regine, a fashion designer by trade, encouraged her daughter to be creative and artistic, and once the family was reunited in the late 1940s, Christiane worked in her mother’s studio. In 1953 she relocated to Paris to study at the fashion institute of Ecole Baziot. It was in Paris that she met Michael Pflug, a young doctor whom she would eventually marry and who would exercise near-complete control of Christiane’s artistic production.
Michael Pflug, who had received formal art education and still hoped to be recognized as a great painter, instructed Christiane in perspective, color theory, and general principles of design. His rigorous control of Christiane’s style and production instilled in her the ideals of perfection and completeness. Despite their tumultuous – and at times abusive – relationship, the two were married in 1956, moving shortly thereafter to Tunisia, for Michael’s work. There, couple had two daughters, Esther and Ursula, whose toys and whose figures would become some of Christiane’s frequent subjects (Kitchen Door and Esther) (Kitchen Door in Winter II). In 1959, they moved to Toronto, Canada.
In Canada, Pflug enjoyed considerable success. She was represented by Avrom Isaacs’ Gallery from 1962-1967, and had retrospective exhibitions of both her drawings and paintings at the Winnipeg Art Gallery, Hart House, and the Sarnia Art Gallery. She sold every one of her paintings exhibited in her first show with Isaacs (1962), and received Canada Council grants in 1967 and 1968. Plagued her entire life by severe depression, Christiane Pflug committed suicide at Toronto Island’s Hanlan’s Point in 1972.
Born in Berlin, Germany, 20 June 1936
Died in Toronto, Ontario, 04 April 1972
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