Artist biography

Ernst Barlach 1870-1938

German sculptor, printmaker and author. Born in Wedel (Holstein). Studied at the School of Arts and Crafts in Hamburg 1888-91 and the Dresden Academy 1891-5, and afterwards for a year in Paris at the Académie Julian 1895-6. Drew illustrations for Jugend 1897-1902 and made sculpture in a style close to Art Nouveau, including some in ceramic. First one-man exhibition at the Kunstsalon Richard Mutz, Berlin, 1904. His characteristic work dates from after a visit to Russia in 1906, when he began to make wood carvings and bronzes of figures swathed in heavy drapery like those in early Gothic art, and in dramatic attitudes expressive of powerful emotions and a yearning for spiritual ecstasy. Also wrote eight Expressionist dramas, two novels and an autobiography Ein selbsterzähltes Leben 1928, and had a distinguished oeuvre of woodcuts and lithographs from about 1910 onwards, including illustrations for his own plays and for the poems of Goethe and Schiller. Spent ten months in Florence in 1909, then settled in 1910 in Güstrow, where he spent the rest of his life. Member of the Berlin Academy 1919. His work was condemned as 'degenerate' by the Nazis, who in 1937 demolished his memorials at Kiel and Güstrow and confiscated all his works in public collections. Died in Rostock.

Published in:
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, p.32, reproduced p.32