Propellerfrau by Sigmar Polke

“Propellerfrau” (“Propeller Woman”) is a work of the world-famous painter Professor Hermann-Sigmar Polke of Cologne. It was created in 1969 during the most significant period of Polk’s creative work.

This website is dedicated to the painter Sigmar Polke and his work “Propellerfrau”. The painting was the center of his work and he kept it at his studio for nearly 40 years. The world-class painter has exhibited the work only once, in Amsterdam.

The 1960s – A Time of Rebellion

There were profound changes occurring in society, politics and culture in the 1960s. The student movement ushered in a new era, beginning in the metropolises. The stodginess of the Adenauer era was swept away by a spirit of optimism.





The changes in the musical landscape during the 60s sent a cultural shockwave through the war generation. In 1965, the Rolling Stones played in Germany for the first time, and the Beatles followed a year later, which triggered an unprecedented enthusiasm among the younger generation. Bob Dylan’s legendary performance of his song “Like a Rolling Stone” in Manchester in 1966 received international attention. The older generation didn’t understand the new music.


In literature, documentaries began replacing conventional literary styles such as short stories and poetry. Writers like Martin Walser, Günter Grass and Heinrich Böll influenced the literary history of a generation with novels such as “The Tin Drum” (“Blechtrommel”), “Cat and Mouse” (“Katze und Maus”) and “The Clown” (“Ansicht eines Clowns”). Works by Samuel Beckett, Hans-Magnus Enzensberger, Günter Grass, Jean-Paul Sartre and Theodor Adorno were influential for the late 60s generation.


The 1960s saw the dissolution of traditional forms of presentation in the arts.
The traditional exhibition venues and exhibition forms were called into question: Gerhard Richter and Konrad Lueg exhibited in furniture stores and Joseph Beuys staged “Wie man dem toten Hasen die Bilder erklärt” (“How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare”) in Schmela’s Düsseldorf gallery. Artistic radicalism sought to be realized outside the establishment.

Sigmar Polke – The Excesses of an Unconventional Thinker

Prof. Sigmar Polke was the darling of international art lovers buying contemporary German art. And yet, he was hardly interested in the art scene himself. While contemporaries such as Andy Warhol were masters at self-marketing or others like Gerhard Richter documented his complete works for the art market, marketing was unimportant for Sigmar Polke . Today, his works are valued at tens of millions of dollars.



The 1960s were the decade of Sigmar Polke’s public breakthrough. Polke had spent the 1960s as a Beuys student in Dusseldorf and was involved in many of the famous actions of the Fluxus group. In a former Dusseldorf butcher shop in 1963, he showed together with Gerhard Richter and Konrad Lueg for the first time his paintings publicly. In the course of this decade, Polke cultivated his artistic strategies against middle-class petty bourgeoisie and ingenious artistry.

Painting Style


Starting in the mid-sixties, Sigmar Polke was preoccupied with the classical modern period. During this time, he developed his idea of the grid technique, the so-called “Polkische Punkte”. He did not work with efficient duplicating processes such as screen printing but rather painted the individual dots by hand. The use of curtain fabric as a medium and the unusual way of presenting it as a hanging panel are characteristic of Polke’s paintings from the late 60s and early 70s.


Number of Works Sold at Auctions


Solo and Group Exhibitions



Creation of “Propellerfrau”



The painting was created during a time marked by the Cold War, the arms race and the space race between the USA and USSR on the way to the first manned moon landing. Polke had already been exploring the “universe” theme before creating “Propellerfrau”. He was working with it in the painting “Pasadena” in 1968 with his grid technique. The propeller woman motive must have been a quite important one for Polke. In 2002, he produced a series of prints for the German airline Lufthansa, which bear the “propeller woman” name and have the same composition.



In “Propellerfrau”, Sigmar Polke satirizes heroic missions into space with his own sense of playful irony. His spaceship is a simple pre-war propeller plane, just as he had already planned it in his sketchbook. The plane flies leaderless, without a pilot. The oversized propeller, consisting of two ghostly women, serves as the supersonic drive and provides the apt title for the painting. The “Propellerfrau” races through space, passing a galactic striped wall that suggests the United States flag with golden stars painted on it. Polke’s choice of material is also an ironic suggestion.

Relationship to the painting


Polke’s relationship to the painting “Propellerfrau” was special. The painting had not left the studio until shortly before his death.Only once was the propeller woman presented at an international art exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. Then the beautiful “Galatea” disappeared again in Polke´s Cologne studio as his “Pygmalion”.Many collectors and dealers had already tried in vain to convince him to sell the “propeller woman”. But Polke kept his favorite painting for decades himself.

Provenence and Further Information About “Propellerfrau”

Propellerfrau (German) / Propeller woman (English) – oil on curtain


Professor Hermann-Sigmar Polke, Cologne

(Born: February 13, 1941 – Died: June 10, 2010)

198 x 186 cm

The estate of Sigmar Polke specified the dimensions of 200 x 190 cm on April 21, 2016.

Oil on curtain fabric
S. PollKe
1969 – 1972 (today considered to be Prof. Polke’s most important creative period)
Assessment of the expert report: “in absolute perfect condition, no restorations, no varnish, as it was left by the artist.”
Inclusion in the catalog raisonné by the estate of Sigmar Polke on April 21, 2016.
  • 1969

    Conception and realization of the painting by Professor Herman-Sigmar Polke, inspired by the moon-landing space race between the USSR and USA superpowers.

  • 1992

    The “Propellerfrau” was exhibited only once by Prof. Polke at the world-famous Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. Otherwise it remained close to the artist in his studio for more than 40 years.

  • 2007

    Acquired by W. Schmitz, Art Director and acquaintance of Prof. Polke in Cologne, directly out of his studio there.

  • 2009-12-21

    The painting returned to the studio of Sigmar Polke.

  • 2011-12-21

    Sigmar Polke’s estate had to return “Propellerfrau” to the original buyer W. Schmitz. (Prof. Polke died in 2010). The basis for this was a final ruling by the regional court of Cologne.

  • 2014-11-06

    The regional Court of Cologne repeatedly orders Polk’s heirs to release the work to then-owner W. Schmitz.

  • 2016-04-21

    Entry into the catalog raisonné by the estate of Sigmar Polke under the transaction number 12/01004.

  • 2018-02-08

    Notarized acquisition through an institutional collection by the Trésor des Templiers, a division of the Templar Order, a spiritual knight order.

Here you will find the link to download an essay about the “Propellerfrau”: 


Contemporaries of the “Polke” epoch

  • Joseph Beuys

    Joseph Beuys (1921 - 1986) is one of the most important action artists, who entered art history through his happenings, performances and installations. Legendary is his saying "every man is an artist". In addition to artistic creation Beuys shaped his...

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  • Andy Warhol

    Andy Warhol (born 1928 as Andrew Warhola) was the leading figure in American Pop Art. His works of art address the tension between individual artistic expression and the visual culture of the world of commodity and mass media, which spread in the 1960s....

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  • Gerhard Richter

    Gerhard Richter (1932 born in Dresden) is known for his abstract and photorealistic paintings. Despite blurring and abstraction, his works are always concerned with reality. Richter works in various media, painting and photography as well as stained glass....

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  • 7. June 2018
    Catalog Raisonné / Estate
    Catalog Raisonné / Estate 7. June 2018 Posted by: Propellerfrau_ Sigmar_Polke Category: Kunst No Comments In order to manage the estate of important artists, descendants and family members often associate in foundations or heir communities (referred to as Foundation or Estate). The Foundations or Estates register and manage the artist's oeuvre in a so-called "catalog
  • 8. May 2018
    Art scene in the 60s
    Art scene in the 60s 8. May 2018 Posted by: Propellerfrau_ Sigmar_Polke Category: Kunst No Comments Sigmar Polke studied at the Düsseldorf Art Academy in the early 1960s. He was part of the legendary class of Karl Otto Götz, which also included Gerhard Richter, Konrad Lueg and Manfred Kuttner. With this circle of like-minded ones
  • 13. March 2018
    Creation of the “Propellerfrau”
    Creation of the “Propellerfrau” Polke's relationship to the painting "Propellerfrau" Polke's relationship to the painting "Propellerfrau" was special. The painting had not left the studio until shortly before his death. Many collectors and dealers had already tried in vain to convince him to sell the "propeller woman". But Polke kept his conviction and kept his
  • 2. February 2018
    End of the 60s – time of the rebels
    End of the 60s – time of the rebels 2. February 2018 Posted by: Propellerfrau_ Sigmar_Polke Category: Kunst No Comments For the war generation, the changes in music, fashion, literature and art meant a veritable cultural shock. In 1965, the Rolling Stones played in Germany for the first time, the Beatles followed a year later

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