Joachim Ringelnatz, whose real name was Hans Bötticher, was born in Wurzen near Leipzig on 7 August 1883. Ringelnatz became a cabin boy and then sailed as a seaman on sailing vessels and steamers. In 1903 Ringelnatz began training as a businessman and continued the course with interruptions until 1905, the year he did his first paintings in oils.
In 1909 he performed jointly with Kathi Kobus in the artists' pub "Simplicissimus" in the Schwabing section of Munich. Joachim Ringelnatz became the "house poet", as it were, of the celebrated Schwabing pub, where he recited his grotesque verses and belong to the circle frequented by Carl Georg von Maassen, Erich Mühsam, Frank Wedekind et al.
Joachim Ringelnatz's autobiographical essay "Viellieber Freund" ["Much Beloved Friend"] and some poems were published in the satirical magazine "Simplicissimus". Ringelnatz eked out a living as a librarian, tourist guide and shop-window decorator. On the outbreak of the first world war, Joachim Ringelnatz volunteered for the German Navy; his war novellas were published in several magazines. In 1919 he stayed for a while in Berlin, where he assumed the pseudonym Joachim Ringelnatz. The year 1920 marked the onset of Ringelnatz's constant tours as a cabaret performer, which took him to stages from Aachen to Zurich for several months a year.
Ringelnatz soon became well known and his most productive and successful years began. By the early 1920s Joachim Ringelnatz was established in Berlin cabaret and comic theatre circles, developing friendships with colleagues and gallerists, including Renée Sintenis, Karl Hofer, Otto Dix, Alfred Flechtheim and the Nierendorf family. Ringelnatz now began to devote himself more intensively to painting, especially in watercolours and opaque paints.
The first successful exhibition and sale of Ringelnatz's paintings took place in 1923 at the Flechtheim Gallery in Berlin, followed by exhibitions in Germany and abroad. In January 1925 Ringelnatz stayed in Paris for three weeks; enraptured with the French capital, he met the painter Jules Pascin. In 1927 Joachim Ringelnatz broadcast for the first time on Berlin radio. Late in the 1920s he joined the group of artists known as "Das Junge Rheinland" ["Young Rhineland"] and the Berlin "November Group".
Joachim Ringelnatz moved to Berlin in 1930 after the political situation had become intolerable in Munich. The National Socialists forbade Ringelnatz to perform publicly in 1933 and his books were banned from public libraries. Virtually destitute, Ringelnatz died of tuberculosis in Berlin on 17 November 1934.