The German artist rebelled against the Industrial Revolution and the war with beautiful works against Nazism.
By J.M. Towers
Ernst Barlach (1870-1938) is one of the most important multidisciplinary German Expressionists. He cultivated sculpture, painting, drawing, printmaking, design, and literature, and his works can be found in prestigious collections and museums around the world.
His most iconic work, the Güstrower Memorial (Floating Angel), a sculpture that remains, after more than 100 years, one of the most famous anti-war statements of the last century.
During the Nazi era in Germany, Barlach's works were considered "degenerate art.” They were seized and dismantled, and over 400 of them were partially damaged.
Ernst Barlach, The Wiedwesehen
Among the German Expressionists, Barlach stood out as a solitary figure. He did not travel to other cities and didn’t attend the inaugurations of its exhibitions or the premieres of his plays, despite being one of the most successful playwrights of his time. He loved solitude and nature, and for 30 years lived in seclusion in a remote rural area in northern Germany.
Barlach continually questioned the blind welfare promises that some predicted. He considered that progress should be the path to a future in which spiritual, ethical, and humanistic qualities would predominate.
His sculptures show peasants, beggars, vagrants, and hustlers; simple, solitary, skeptical, and introspective figures that Barlach used to reflect on the glorification of technology, rationalism, and the prevailing materialism. It was his way of rebelling against the rapid acceleration of the industrial society.