A characteristic of Karl Spreitz’s artistic work is his ever-present wit. As a young boy he was a prankster in school and his favourite uncle was the family jester and political enthusiast who likely influenced Spreitz’s way of viewing the world. He found a kindred mentor and partner in crime in artist Herbert Siebner, and hilarity often ensued between these two characters who shared the same artistic circle. Film professor and friend Colin Browne said Spreitz, “ … turned everything upside down to expose its ludicrous side.” 1 This is demonstrated by his use of amusing titles and comical drawings, which question the logic of society.

Maybe The Rooster Came First, 1978
Gouache and ink on paper 51.00 x 42.00
Gift of Myfanwy Spencer Pavelic

Underlying Spreitz’s satirical jabs at bureaucracy is an antipathy for authority that originated from his war experiences in Austria. Conscripted to the German youth corps at the age of 17, he was sent to Hamburg where he tried to escape back to Austria by swimming the Elbe River and traveling cross-country on stolen bicycles. He was captured and placed in a prisoner-of-war camp by the American army but shortly released and returned to Graz. It was not until two years later when his stepfather returned from a Russian prison camp that the Spreitz family reunited and tried to return to a normal life.

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