Paul Wunderlich was born in Eberswalde, Mark Brandenburg, in 1927, and was probably best known for his erotic sculptures and Surrealist work. He also belonged to the second wave of Fantastic Realists (otherwise known as the Magic Realists). He took Free Graphics at the Landeskunstschule in Hamburg (1947-51), alongside Reinhard Drenkhahn and Horst Janssen. He then enroled in a class with Willem Grimm, the German painter and Printmaker. In 1951, he also became a teacher of lithography and etching at Landeskunstschule (a position that he held until 1960), whilst learning and printing under Oskar Kokoschka and Emil Nolde.
In 1955, Wunderlich was given a scholarship by the Cultural Committee of Germany. Two years later, he began to paint in a Tachiste style, but quickly abandoned this. From 1957-8 he taught himself lithography. He also created his first figurative works, initially depicting recent events in Germany, then featuring more erotic subject matter. This aroused moral indignation, and, in 1960, the public prosecutor of Hamburg confiscated a series of these salacious prints (qui s’explique). One of his most important works from this period was ‘Sebastian’, completed in 1959, in which an almost Klee-like figure emerges, emaciated and malformed, from its bright orange background, stuck through with arrows.
Moving to Paris in 1961, Wunderlich worked in the Desjobert workshop, where he improved his lithographical technique. In 1963 he met Karin Szekessy (who later became his wife) a photographer and photo journalist, whose nude pictures he sometimes used as inspiration for prints. In the same year, he returned to Hamburg to take up a position as a professor at the Hochschule für bildende Künste, which he held until his resignation in 1968. Wunderlich continued to work for printing houses outside Germany, however, and experimented with sculpture, and airbrush tools. He also perfected his work with gouache. In 1964 he was awarded the Japan Cultural Forum Award, in 1967, the Award Premio Marzotti, in 1970, the Gold Medal in Florence, in 1978, Gold Medals at the Grafik-Biennale in Taiwan and in Bulgaria, and, in 1986, the Kunstpreis des Landes Schleswig-Holstein.
In the 1970s, Wunderlich began to produce sculptures, and also took inspiration from artists such as Manet, Ingres, and Dürer, isolating the latter’s motifs and putting them to Surrealist use. In 1981 he was elected to the Académie des Beaux-Arts, Paris (Engraving).
Wunderlich split his time between Hamburg and France for the rest of his life, dying in Provence in 2010. He had major retrospectives at several Japanese museums from 1994-5. He left behind a body of work that shows strange, distorted human figures with backgrounds that appear to be dissolving. His lithographs are held in several prestigious collections, such as the British Museum, Bibliothèque Nationale (Paris), the V & A, and MoMA (New York).