Barlach, Ernst

(1870-1938)
   illustrator, sculptor, and writer; best known for his monuments honoring Germany's war dead. Born to a physician in Wedel (Holstein), he became the master pupil of Robert Diez at the Dresden Academy (1891-1895) before studying at Paris's Julian Academy (1895-1896). It was a 1906 Russian tour, however, that inspired his personal style. His ties with pub-lisher Paul Cassirer led in 1907 to an illustration contract; for two years he drew for the Munich periodical Simplizissimus. In 1910, after a lengthy sojourn in Florence, he settled in the Mecklenburg town of Güstrow, where he remained most of his life.
   An outspoken patriot in 1914, Barlach was later repelled by the war when he was touched by its widespread misery. The Weimar era brought him numerous accolades: appointment in 1919 to the Berlin Academy of Arts; receipt in 1924 of the Kleist Prize for Literature; Honorary Membership in the Munich Arts Academy in 1925; and the award in 1933, upon recommendations from Max Liebermann* and Kathe Kollwitz,* of the Pour le Merite (Peace Class). With Kollwitz and Gerhard Marcks,* he was among Germany's premier sculptors. A spiritual man who claimed his greatest satisfaction when working in wood, he emulated the medieval masters by completing his illustrations as woodcuts. Among his best-known work is the 1922 portfolio Die Wandlungen Gottes (The transformations of God), a series of plates depicting the Genesis story. His wooden monuments to the war's fallen soldiers—completed for Magdeburg, Hamburg, Kiel, and Güstrow—were testimonials against war. Indeed, his art increasingly depicted travail as mankind's basic condition.
   In addition to lithographs and woodcuts, Barlach rendered his artistry through several writings, including dramas, novels, and poetry. The plays, beginning in 1912 with Der tote Tag (Dead day), inevitably dealt with questions of life, religion, and death. He was forbidden from 1933 to exhibit his art and he col-lapsed into despair during his final years as his work was first condemned as degenerate and then systematically destroyed throughout Germany.
   REFERENCES:Benz and Graml, Biographisches Lexikon; NDB, vol. 1; Werner, Ernst Barlach.

A Historical dictionary of Germany's Weimar Republic, 1918-1933. .

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