Torsten Wolber
Expressive portraits and painting

After 28 wonderfully creative years as an illustrator I wanted to discover more about the secrets of painting.

I can illustrate what that is in painting rather than in words, but basically I’ve learned how spontaneity and intuition together evoke a previously unknown feeling of freedom when painting.

I first got to know and to love the technique of Allaprima painting through Plein Air studies (pictures of the landscape painted outside). I consolidated this technique in numerous studies in my studio and in this way formed a solid basis for a loose style of painting. In this way I can treat studies and commissions in the same loose style, paint in a concentrated, purposeful way and at the same time remain open to anything that the subject of the picture “suggests” to me.

The result is a loose, realistic treatment of the subject which places expression to the fore.


 Art historian Ursula Mattelé MA writes:

 Portraits form the major part of the work of the versatile artist Torsten Wolber. They are based on academic forms of painting but are however applied much more freely. In his compositions he prefers a rough preliminary drawing, and then lines and outlines are allowed to find and lose themselves. The strength of expression in these works remind one of the portraits of Lovis Corinth, Wilhelm Leible or the later Allaprima works of Franz von Lenbach. Wolber also works using Allaprima; paintings including portraits should be ideally completed in one day. This presupposes a high measure of technical ability and wide experience, as it is only the finished picture that can be judged for its quality.

Torsten Wolber does much of his work in the open air; he is a master of Plein Air painting. As well as a good eye, Plein Air painting demands precise brushstrokes and a confident use of the palette, as the timeframe and the exact moment to capture the atmosphere is very short. In his paintings we see the sharp eye and the well-founded technique of the illustrator.

For almost 30 years Torsten Wolber worked as a graphic artist and illustrator and since 2017 painting has formed an increasingly larger part of his work. In 2020 he took the decision to devote himself entirely to painting. This meant he was able to break away from the constraints of the requests and requirements of his clients, which leave too little room for his own ideas. He says himself “With illustrations the design is the creative act and the implementation is technical ability. With painting it is completely the other way round: the picture is allowed to make its own way.” He describes Plein Air painting as a brilliant exercise to free oneself again and again from the “plan of the illustrator” and to let the picture develop.



In this way he develops small format landscapes, many of them on the island of Wangerooge. There are beach scenes and seascapes which reflect the typically rapid changes of weather and mood. Amongst his paintings there are those which have originated in the Völklingen Ironworks or on a visit to rural North America. These almost have the appearance of still life or even of vanitas or memento mori paintings. Nature takes over disused industrial sites which once represented progress and prosperity. Delapidated factory buildings and remains of machines together with rusting limousines are former status symbols decaying in overgrown gardens and the artist impressively shows the contrast between luxuriant nature and the beauty of the past.

His studio pieces depict people with sensitivity. He paints them in seemingly off-guard moments, lost in their thoughts, some turned away, others looking directly at us out of the picture. One can recognise both Wolber’s joy in experimentation as well as his excellent technical ability.

He works exclusively in oil, a medium he applies using many layers. His characteristic style usually consists of thick and broadly applied layers of paint colours that bleed into each other or of nuanced passages of almost completely merged colours. This draws attention to a certain structure, gesture or pose complemented with an accent of colour or light. With broad paint application the artist creates fine nuances. There is also a fascinating use of scrapers with which outlines are broken up. In this way the picture of a leaping dancer for example is given powerful dynamic qualities.

There is nothing fusty or old-fashioned about Torsten Wolber’s portraiture or representational work. The bold brushwork and his realism create timeless and vibrant paintings.


I was born in 1964 and studied for a diploma in Graphic Design and Illustration at the Cologne University of Applied Sciences from 1987 to 1992. I have worked for nearly 30 years as an independent illustrator and teacher of digital painting within the German Association of Illustrators before I concentrated exclusively on painting in oils in 2020. Through working on countless Plein Air studies done on location in the countryside I have learned how to capture fleeting impressions quickly and precisely. This way of working is incorporated into those pieces of work in the studio which contain portraits and figurative subjects.

I live and work in Cologne.



2017 Das Selfie-Projekt, Galerie Hartung, Köln
2017 Flashback, „Polaroids“, Crossart, Fabrik 45 Bonn
2017 – 2019 Cöln Comic Haus
2018 Galerie Eyegen-art
2019 Revierkunst Zeche Ewald
2019 Kunst im carrée

2022 Vanessa Rothe Gallery, Laguna Beach

2023 Art.Salon Gallery , Berlin


2017-2022 „NordLicht“, Pleinair- und Studio-Malereien, Ausstellungssaal Wangerooge
2017 – 2020 Galerie Landmann31, Köln

2021 Galerie “Kleine Affäre” – Hattingen


2018 1.Platz „Rheingold“-Preis

2019 1. Platz Kunst im carrée/ Köln