Ernst BarlachGerman, 1870–1938
Starr Figura, German Expressionism: The Graphic Impulse, New York, The Museum of Modern Art, 2011
Sculptor, printmaker, dramatist. Famed for his sculptures of religious and mystical figures influenced by Gothic wood carvings, and for bulky peasant figures, which were inspired by his 1906 trip to Russia. Used emphatic gestures and angular poses to convey emotion and movement. After studying in Hamburg, Dresden, and, briefly, Paris, lived in Berlin from 1899, and then, eschewing city life, settled in northern town of Güstrow in 1910. Ardor for war, manifested in works celebrating righteousness of German cause, was quickly extinguished. Volunteered as a medic, then drafted into infantry in December 1915; discharged after three months due to heart problem. Thereafter created haunting monuments in wood and bronze,erected in churches across Germany, warning of tragic consequences of war.
From about 1909 until 1926, worked under contract with Paul Cassirer,who encouraged his printmaking and published nearly all his prints. Issued first prints in 1912, eventually making more than two hundred black-and-white lithographs and woodcuts, including prints for five books and plays he wrote himself. At Cassirer’s urging, also made woodcuts illustrating texts by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Friedrich Schiller, and others; only made single prints after the publisher’s death in 1926.
Nazis removed 381 of his works from museums and churches, destroying some. Was barred from exhibiting and staging his plays. Weakened by Nazi persecutions, died in 1938.
Laur, Elisabeth. Ernst Barlach: Sämtliche Werke, Werkverzeichnis I. Die Druckgraphik. Leipzig: E. A. Seemann, 2001.
Paret, Peter. An Artist Against the Third Reich: Ernst Barlach, 1933–38. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.
Works by Ernst Barlach
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