Gotthard Johnny Friedlaender was born in Pless (Pszczyna), Prussian Silesia, as the son of a pharmacist. He graduated from the Breslau (Wrocław) high school in 1922 and then attended the Academy of Arts (Akademie der Bildenden Kunste) in Breslau, where he studied under Otto Mueller. He graduated with a master’s degree in 1928. In 1930, he moved to Dresden where he held an exhibition at the J. Sandel Gallery and at the Dresden Art Museum.
In 1936, Friedlaender journeyed to Czechoslovakia, Switzerland, Austria, France and Belgium to hold multiple successful exhibitions of etchings and watercolors. He moved to Paris in 1937 with his young wife, who was an actress. From 1939 to 1943, he was captured and forced to live and work in a series of concentration camps, but survived against poor odds.
After his freedom in 1944, Friedlaender began a series of twelve etchings entitled Images du Malheur. In the same year, he received a commission to illustrate four books by Freres Tharaud of the French Academy. In 1945, he performed work for several newspapers including Cavalcade and Carrefour. In 1947, he produced the work Reves Cosmiques and he became a member of the Salon de Mai, which was a position he held until 1969. After living in Paris for 13 years, in 1950, Friedlaender became a French citizen.
1971 was a year of diverse international travel including shows in Bern, Milan, Paris, Krefeld and again New York. In the latter city, he exhibited paintings at the Far Gallery, a venue becoming well known for its patronage of important twentieth century artists.
From his atelier in Paris, Friedlaender instructed younger artists who themselves went on to become noteworthy, among them Arthur Luiz Piza, Brigitte Coudrain, Rene Carcan, Andreas Nottebohm nd Graciela Rodo Boulanger. Like Friedlaender, these students were expert in the lithographic and etching arts.
1978 brought a retrospective of Friedlaender’s works to the Musee d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. He was awarded the Lovis Corinth Prize in Regensburg three years later. On his 75th birthday, Friedlaender was given a retrospective in the Bremen Art Museum. On his 80th birthday, a retrospective exhibition was held in Bonn at the municipal council offices.
Friedlaender passed away in Paris in 1992.