Ernst Barlach made these prints to cope with his grief over the death of his mother. Loosely, the seven sheets illustrate the formation of the world and Barlach's fervent belief in the unity of all creation. The first two sheets explicitly address this theme. In Der erste Tag (The first day), God radiates power; softly rolling clouds part around his angular, blocky body, which was influenced by Gothic sculpture. Next, in Die Dome (The cathedrals), he surveys man-made creation. Der göttliche Bettler (The divine beggar) shows God, having descended to earth in the guise of a cripple, experiencing the brutality that has beset the land. Gott Bauch (God belly), which depicts a grotesque deity towering over uninterested men, manifests Barlach's disappointment that his contemporaries were interested more in physical than in spiritual fulfillment. In Totentanz II (Dance of death II) Barlach focuses on the redeeming power of love, which protects two figures from a terrifying crowd. Die Felsen (The rocks) and Der siebente Tag (The seventh day) portray God as a force as strong and eternal as the mountains.
This portfolio was the last publication of the illustrious Berlin-based Pan-Presse, which influential dealer Paul Cassirer had acquired in 1908 and which issued many of the most artistically accomplished illustrated books and portfolios of the Expressionist era.
Publication excerpt from Heather Hess, German Expressionist Digital Archive Project, German Expressionism: Works from the Collection. 2011.