Jan Peter Tripp

Jan Peter Tripp

Jan Peter Tripp

Jan Peter Tripp, born in Allgäu, in the Bavarian Alps in 1945, is a German painter, sculptor and author. While he is renowned in Germany and Europe, there is little criticism to be found in English on Tripp that does not primarily consider his friend and collaborator, W. G. Sebald.

With Tripp, Sebald created his last book Unrecounted (2004). Featured in the book, each paired with a poem by Sebald, are etchings of eyes by Tripp modeled on found photographs. The effect is the reader must face a return stare from each page. Sebald admiringly described the quality of Tripp’s work as taking realism to “an almost unimaginable extreme.”

A self-proclaimed “Neanderthal-man,” Tripp perpetuates his elusiveness. His notable website does little to make up for the scarcity of information on his work. A feat of minimalism, it features only a video with the option of French, English or German subtitles. The video cannot be replayed or paused. Tripp is dressed in a black shirt against a stark white background. In between lengths of silently staring us down, he discusses the Internet’s innate failure to convey his material works.

cover image of the book Unrecounted


W.G. Sebald and Jan Peter Tripp were friends from their schooldays. Unrecounted combines 33 of what W.G. Sebald called his “micro-poems”—miniatures as unclassifiable as all his works—with 33 lithographs by the acclaimed artist Jan Peter Tripp. The art and the poems do not explain one another, but rather engage in a kind of dialog. “The longer I look at the pictures of Jan Peter Tripp,” Sebald comments in his essay, “the better I understand that behind the illusions of the surface, a dread-inspiring depth is concealed. It is the metaphysical lining of reality, so to speak.” The lithographs portray with stunning exactness pairs of eyes: among them the eyes of Beckett, Borges, Proust, Jasper Johns, Francis Bacon, Tripp, and Sebald. The poems are anti-narrative, epiphanic and brief as haiku. What the author calls “time lost, the pain of remembering, and the figure of death” here find a small home.

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