Ernst Barlach

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Ernst Barlach, self-portrait, 1928
Signature Ernst Barlach.PNG

Ernst Heinrich Barlach (born January 2, 1870 in Wedel , † October 24, 1938 in Rostock ) was a German sculptor , writer and draftsman . Barlach is particularly known for its wooden sculptures and bronzes . He also left behind a diverse range of prints , drawings and literary works. His artistic handwriting, both in visual and literary work, is somewhere between realism and expressionism . His works are researched, supervised and exhibited internationally by the Ernst Barlach Society in Hamburg, which was founded in 1946 .

life and work

Ernst Barlach's birthplace in Wedel

Ernst Barlach was the eldest of four sons of the doctor Georg (Gottlieb) Barlach (1839–1884) and his wife Johanna Louise, née. Vollert (1845-1920). He spent a large part of his childhood in Schönberg (Mecklenburg) , where his father practiced from 1872, and from autumn 1876 in Ratzeburg . About his move from Schönberg to Ratzeburg, Barlach reports in his autobiographical work Ein Selbststahles Leben , published in 1928 : “... and when later my ... father said to me: 'We are moving to Ratzeburg soon', I asked carefully: 'Is that where the beautiful water was?' - That was it. ”The same work shows that the family in Ratzeburg first moved into a house on Seestrasse, but after a short time they moved into“ the old house with the high roof ”, which Barlach later always called his“ old father's house “And in which the Ratzeburg Barlach Museum is located today . After the death of his father, Barlach returns to Schönberg as a half-orphan with the family, where he attended secondary school.

Barlach's talent for linguistic and visual design was encouraged from early childhood.

Barlach House in Ratzeburg, 2005
Memorial plaque on the Barlach house in Friedrichroda

After studying art at the Hamburg School of Applied Arts from 1888 to 1891, he studied at the Dresden Art Academy until 1895 as a master student of the sculptor Robert Diez . His thesis there was The Cabbage Picker . This was followed by a two-year stay in Paris , where he was mainly occupied with writing. Between 1894 and 1897 he spent some time in Friedrichroda , where he had accommodation at Alexandrinenstrasse 26.

The young Ernst Barlach

From 1897 Barlach initially worked as a freelance artist. In 1901 he moved back to his hometown Wedel and began his first dramatic attempts. He also mainly created small ceramics for the Mutz pottery workshop in Altona. In 1904 he worked for half a year through the mediation of Peter Behrens as a teacher at the technical college for ceramics in Höhr-Grenzhausen ( Westerwald ).

In 1906 Barlach made a trip to Russia ; the impressions of Russian peasantry and folk art were to influence his sculptures in the way they were designed. In the same year he became the father of a son, Nikolaus (Klaus), from the short relationship with the seamstress Rosa Schwab, who had also been his model . After a two-year legal battle, he was given custody as a father. In 1907, in the spring salon of the Berlin Secession , Barlach exhibited the colored terracottas sculpted by Richard Mutz, Russian beggar with bowl and blind Russian beggar . From 1909 Barlach received a scholarship at the Villa Romana in Florence .

Barlach workshop on Inselsee in Güstrow, 1980

Barlach's early works already dealt with people, their living conditions and their attitudes towards life. From 1910 he regularly took part in exhibitions at the Berlin Secession, the Sonderbund and at the art collector Paul Cassirer in Berlin. Since that year Barlach lived together with his mother Louise († 1920) and his son Klaus in Güstrow ( Mecklenburg ), where he had a studio and house built by Adolf Kegebein on the Inselsee according to his needs . This is where his main works were created. In 1914 he met Friedrich Schult for the first time in Güstrow, who later became a lifelong friendship. In the conversations Barlach made the appropriate statement: "Every art needs two: one who makes it and one who needs it." After being called up in 1915 for the Landsturm , he was particularly concerned with the experience of "war". In 1925 he became an honorary member of the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich .

After the couple Bernhard A. Böhmer (art dealer) and his wife Marga (sculptor), who were friends with Barlach, separated in 1927, Marga Böhmer became his partner until his death and then his estate administrator.

His dramas Der tote Tag (1912), Der arme Vetter (1918), The real Sedemunds (1920), Der Foundling (1922), die Sündflut (1924), Der Blaue Boll (1926) were written at short intervals ; In 1927 he worked on the drama Der Graf von Ratzeburg .

In 1922 the first memorial to the Mother of Sorrows was inaugurated in Kiel . The memorial for the fallen, Der Schwebende , in Güstrow Cathedral was created in 1927. In Der Schwebende , Barlach is said to have processed the facial features of his artist colleague Käthe Kollwitz . Just one year later, the spirit warrior was set up in front of the Kiel University Church . The memorial in Magdeburg Cathedral followed in 1929, and the Hamburg memorial in 1931 .

Barlach was one of the 37 signatories of the call by cultural workers of August 19, 1934, in which he confessed to "trust and loyalty to him (Adolf Hitler)."

The draft of a Pietà for Stralsund was no longer completed in 1932 due to hostility from National Socialist circles. The character assassination campaign sparked against Barlach led to the storage of the Magdeburg Memorial in 1934 , and in 1937 to the removal of the Kieler Geistkämpfers and the Güstrow Memorial, which was melted down in 1941. Friends had made a second casting, which was hidden at Hugo Körtzinger's in Schnega until the end of the war . In 1938 the relief Mourning Mother and Child was removed from the Hamburg Memorial and the forced exit from the Prussian Academy of the Arts . More than 400 of his works were removed from public collections as " degenerate art ". In 1937 the Reich Chamber of Fine Arts banned him from exhibiting.

Grave site of the Barlach family, Ratzeburg

At the age of 68, Barlach died of a heart attack on October 24, 1938 in the St. Georg Clinic in Rostock. He was buried in the grave of the Barlach family in the "Vorstadtfriedhof" in Ratzeburg. The sculpture "The singing monastery student" (1931) is located on the grave site.

Ernst Barlach was the grandfather of the entrepreneur and gallery owner Hans Barlach .

In 1966, DEFA produced the feature film Der verlorene Engel, dedicated to Ernst Barlach, based on the novella Das schlimme Jahr by Franz Fühmann, directed by Ralf Kirstens . After postponement and censorship cuts, it was only performed in the GDR in 1971.

Awards and honorary memberships


Barlach's critics include the Leipzig professor of art history Kurt Magritz , who accused his work of nihilistic and formalistic tendencies in the early 1950s .

Estate and museums

The Ernst Barlach Foundation in Güstrow preserves and maintains essential parts of the Barlach estate and makes them accessible to the public through museum presentations.

Gertrudenkapelle in Güstrow

In 1953 - after it was quiet around him until the end of the war - the Güstrow Gertrudenkapelle was opened as the first Barlach Museum. This was followed by memorials / staff museums in Ratzeburg , Hamburg, Güstrow again (Atelier in Heidberg) and the Ernst Barlach Museum in the birthplace in Wedel / Holstein .

A large part of his works is now in Güstrow - in his studio on Inselsee, in the Gertruden Chapel and in Güstrow Cathedral , for which a new cast was removed from the second cast of the floating in the Antoniterkirche Cologne -, in the museums of the Hamburg Ernst Barlach Society , in the Ernst Barlach Museum Ratzeburg and in Wedel as well as in the Ernst Barlach House in Hamburg.


Some of his works were shown posthumously at documenta 1 (1955) and documenta III (1964) in Kassel . The Leopold Museum in Vienna showed a retrospective of his work in 2009.

On September 19, 2012, “the largest Barlach exhibition in a long time” opened in Münster with almost 500 exhibits, prepared by the Evangelical Church District of Münster in cooperation with the Ernst Barlach Society.


Works in the visual arts (selection)

The Beggar (1930) - bronze cast of a statue in the monastery courtyard of the Ratzeburg Cathedral
  • 1908: Seated woman. Nuremberg, Germanisches Nationalmuseum , Pl 3048, 1689 (loan from private collection), spruce wood, 20.5 × 17.2 × 10 cm
  • 1918: Crucifix II (catalog raisonné Laur II 265). Casts in the Elisabeth Church in Marburg, in Güstrow Cathedral, in the St. Georg Church in Lübeck-Travemünde, in the St. Remberti Church in Bremen and in the Antoniterkirche in Cologne.
  • 1923: Walpurgis Night . Book with 20 woodcuts after the Walpurgis Night from Goethe's Faust 1
  • 1926: The reunion ( Christ and Thomas ). Wooden version, State Museum Schwerin , 103 cm high
  • 1927: Güstrow memorial. Güstrow Cathedral and Cologne Antoniterkirche ( Der Schwebende )
  • 1928: The Singing Man. Nuremberg, Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Pl 3188, 1689 (loan from the city of Nuremberg), bronze, 50 × 47 × 42 cm
  • 1928: The spirit fighter. Next to the entrance portal of the Nikolaikirche Kiel
  • 1929: Magdeburg Memorial . Magdeburg Cathedral, group of figures
  • 1930: Monastery student reading
  • 1930: Frau im Wind, beggar (cast bronze no. 3/8 since August 2007 in the cloister of St. Paulus Cathedral in Münster), singing convent pupil from the frieze community of saints , clinker sculptures on the westwork of the Lübeck Katharinenkirche , made by the Ilse Mining AG
  • 1931: Hamburg Memorial : Mourning mother with child. Reconstructed in 1949
  • 1931: The teaching Christ (catalog raisonné: Laur 474; Schult 373). A cast adorns the tomb of the painter Christian Rohlfs (1849–1938) in Hagen, and another found its way into the Stedelijk van Abbe Museum in Eindhoven. After the Second World War, the third cast was placed in the Christ Church in Hamburg-Othmarschen. The fourth cast is in the entrance hall of the house of the church in Kassel. Another cast is in the south aisle of Cologne's Antoniterkirche.
  • 1931: The crucifix in the Elisabethkirche (Marburg) , which was donated to the church on the 700th anniversary of Elisabeth's death.
  • 1931: The mourners - Reuss grave in the Ebersdorf Palace Park in Thuringia.
  • 1932: Reading monks. Barlach created the figures of the monks absorbed in their reading from oak. The work is in the National Gallery in Berlin.
  • 1934: The Wanderer in the Wind. With this sculpture, Barlach directed himself against National Socialism.
  • 1935: Frieze of those listening. Nine wooden figures commissioned by Hermann F. Reemtsma. Ernst Barlach House, Hamburg
  • 1936: The book reader. Bronze. Schwerin, State Museum

Works in literature

  • The dead day. Drama in 5 acts . Verlag Paul Cassirer, Berlin 1912, DNB  579137309 (Latest edition: Faber & Faber, Leipzig 2011. ISBN 978-3-86730-085-8 ).
  • The poor cousin. Drama . Verlag Paul Cassirer, Berlin 1918, DNB  579137317 ( online - latest edition: Reclam, Stuttgart 1992. ISBN 3-15-008218-8 ).
  • The real Sedemunds. Drama . Paul Cassirer Publishing House, Berlin 1920, DNB  579137287 ( online ).
  • The boulder. A game in 3 pieces . Paul Cassirer Verlag, Berlin 1922, DNB  579137252 ( online ).
  • The flood. Drama in 5 parts . Verlag Paul Cassirer, Berlin 1924, DNB  579137295 ( online ).
  • The blue boll . Drama . Verlag Paul Cassirer, Berlin 1926, DNB  579137236 ( online ).
  • A self-told life . Verlag Paul Cassirer, Berlin 1928, DNB  579137279 ( online ).
  • The good time. 10 acts . Paul Cassirer Publishing House, Berlin 1929, DNB  579137341 .
  • Fragments from a very early period . Ulrich Riemerschmidt Verlag, Berlin 1939, DNB  572133014 ( online ).
  • Guestrower's diary in excerpt. 1914-1917 . o.A. , Verden (Aller) 1943, DNB  57213309X .
  • Sea bacon. (After Ernst Barlach's left handwriting) . Suhrkamp Verlag, Berlin / Frankfurt am Main 1948, DNB  450232905 ( online ).
  • The stolen moon. (After Ernst Barlach's left handwriting) . Suhrkamp Verlag, Berlin / Frankfurt am Main 1948, DNB  450232883 ( online ).
  • The Count of Ratzeburg. Acting . Grilling press, Hamburg 1951, DNB  450232891 .
  • Russian diary . In: Ernst Barlach: The poetic work . tape 2 . Verlag Piper, Munich 1958, DNB  7570014-1 (written in 1906).


With the initial issue date January 2, 2020 was the German Post AG to mark the 150th birthday of Ernst Barlach a special stamp in the denomination out of 270 euro cents. The design comes from the graphic artist Thomas Mayfried from Munich.



Autobiography and letters

  • A self-told life. Paul Cassirer, Berlin 1928. With 25 illustrations and 83 illustrations on panels (photographs of Barlach's works) - reprinted in 1948 and 1962, Piper & Co Verlag, Munich.
  • Early and late letters. Edited by Paul Schurek and Hugo Sieker . Claasen, Hamburg 1962.
  • The letters 1888–1938. In two volumes. Edited by Friedrich Dross . Piper, Munich 1968–1969.
  • Ernst Barlach. The letters. Critical edition in four volumes. Edited by Holger Helbig et al. Suhrkamp, ​​Berlin 2019, ISBN 978-3-518-42877-1 . Vol. 2: ( )
  • A self-told life & Güstrower fragments. Marix Verlag, Wiesbaden 2009, ISBN 978-3-86539-209-1 .


in alphabetical order by authors / editors

  • Heidi Beutin, Wolfgang Beutin, Heinrich Bleicher-Nagelsmann, Holger Malterer (eds.): Ernst Barlach (1870–1938). His life, his work, his persecution in the Nazi dictatorship. Peter Lang, Frankfurt am Main 2009, ISBN 978-3-631-58817-8 .
  • Wolfgang Beutin : Barlach or Access to the Unconscious. A critical study. Königshausen and Neumann, Würzburg 1994, ISBN 3-88479-988-6 .
  • Brigitte Birnbaum: Ernst Barlach - Approaches . Demmler Verlag, Schwerin 1996, ISBN 3-910150-32-2 .
  • Rosemarie Clausen : Barlach. 2nd Edition. Christian Wegner, Hamburg 1966. (photographs)
  • Ditte Clemens: Marga Böhmer, Barlach's partner . Demmler Verlag, Schwerin 1996, ISBN 3-910150-35-7 .
  • Gunnar Decker : Ernst Barlach - The Floating One. A biography. Siedler, Munich 2019, ISBN 978-3-8275-0106-6 .
  • Jürgen Doppelstein (ed.): Barlach and Goethe. Exhibition catalog. Seemann, Leipzig 1997, ISBN 3-363-00665-9 .
  • Johann Wolfgang von Goethe : Poems. With stone drawings by Ernst Barlach . Edition Leipzig, Leipzig 1978.
  • Naomi J. Groves: Ernst Barlach, life in the work. Sculptures, drawings and graphics, dramas, prose works and letters (selection) . 9th, changed edition. Verlag Langewiesche, Königstein / T. 2013 ( The Blue Books ), ISBN 978-3-7845-4154-9 .
  • Elmar Jansen (Ed.): The Ernst Barlach museums. Guestrow, Ratzeburg, Hamburg, Wedel . EA Seemann, Leipzig 1998, ISBN 3-363-00682-9 .
  • Elmar Jansen (Ed.): Ernst Barlach Graphics - 48 lithographs and woodcuts . Insel-Verlag, Leipzig 1974. - Insel-Bücherei 917
  • Harald Knobling: Studies on the graphic work of Ernst Barlach 1892–1912 (= manuscripts for art history in the Werner publishing company 26). Wernersche Verlagsgesellschaft, Worms 1989. ISBN 978-3-88462-925-3
  • Catherine Krahmer: Ernst Barlach, with self-testimonies and photo documents. Rowohlt, Reinbek 1984 (Jan. 2002 in 8th edition), ISBN 3-499-50335-2 .
  • Elisabeth Laur: Ernst Barlach, the prints. (Catalog of works 1). Seemann, Leipzig 2001.
  • Antje Löhr-Sieberg, Annette Scholl with the collaboration of Anselm Weyer (Ed.): Barlach's Angel - Voices on the Cologne “floating”. Greven Verlag, Cologne 2011, ISBN 978-3-7743-0481-9 .
  • Wolfgang Maier-Preusker: Ernst Barlach (1870–1938). Biographical notes and documentation of the woodcuts for the drama “Der Findling” from 1922. Self-published, Vienna 2003.
  • Friedhelm Niggemeier: Encounters. Alfred Andersch and Ernst Barlach: “Sansibar or the last reason” and “the monastery student who reads” . Book on Demand Verlag, Norderstedt 2010, ISBN 978-3-8391-7071-7 .
  • Curd Ochwadt (ed.): Ernst Barlach, Hugo Körtzinger and Hermann Reemtsma, correspondence. A contribution to the biography of Ernst Barlach's last years with 30 previously unpublished letters from Barlach . Hejo-Verlag, Hannover 1988, ISBN 3-924212-02-3 .
  • Peter Paret: An Artist in the Third Reich. Ernst Barlach 1933–1938 . Wjs-Verlag, Berlin, 2006, ISBN 3-937989-15-3 .
  • Andrea Rudolph: The witch as a myth. The doubt and the will to self. Witch figures in the work of Ernst Barlach . With an accompanying contribution by Marion Marquardt. Dettelbach b. Wuerzburg 1998.
  • Friedrich Schult: Barlach in conversation . Insel-Verlag, Leipzig 1985
  • Friedemann Steiger : Landscape of a Soul. Reflections on and with Ernst Barlach. Leipzig 1990. ISBN 3-7462-1228-6
  • Hans Weingartz: "The floating one" - pictures from an Ernst Barlach exhibition in the Ratzeburg Cathedral. Kid Verlag, 2011, ISBN 978-3-929386-32-5 .


in alphabetical order by authors / editors

  • Walter Arnold: Ernst Barlach's “Ghost Fighter” - a Roland for Kiel? In: Nordelbingen , Vol. 84, 2015, pp. 165–200.
  • Lexicon of Art. Vol. 1 (1987), pp. 404-406.
  • Wolfgang Maier-Preusker in: Books and portfolios with graphics of German Expressionism. Vienna 2006.
  • Ursula Peters: Modern times. The 20th Century Collection. In collaboration with Andrea Legde. Nuremberg 2000 ( Cultural and Historical Walks in the Germanisches Nationalmuseum. Vol. 3), pp. 81–83.
  • Hans-Joachim Sandberg: “Always the same, always in a different form.” Barlach under the spell of the hover. WfB publishing group, 2006, ISBN 978-3-86672-020-6 .
  • Karl Scheffler : Self-stylization. In: ders. The fat and the lean years. Leipzig 1946, pp. 118-140.
  • Ulrich Schulte-Wülwer: The Barlach reception in Flensburg. In: Elisabeth Laur, Volker Probst (ed.): Ernst Barlach. Ways and changes. 2002 (Writings of the Ernst Barlach Foundation, Series B, No. 11) pp. 80–98.
  • Leonie von Wilckens:  Barlach, Ernst Heinrich. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 1, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1953, ISBN 3-428-00182-6 , pp. 591-593 ( digitized version ).

Web links

Commons : Ernst Barlach  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Ernst Barlach  - Sources and full texts

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Gustav Willgeroth : The Mecklenburg doctors from the oldest times to the present. Schwerin 1929. p. 347.
  2. Vita.Ernst Barlach Gesellschaft Hamburg
  3. Catherine Cramer: Barlach , p. 141 f
  4. ^ Kunstverein Zwickau eV: history and concerns ; accessed on August 3, 2020
  5. ^ Hans Prolingheuer: Hitler's pious iconoclasts. Church & art under the swastika. Cologne 2001, ISBN 3-920862-33-3 , p. 180.
  6. (Kerstin Artz: Book about Barlach's angels from the Antoniterkirche. In: Rheinische Post, April 29, 2011)
  7. ^ Westfälische Nachrichten , August 8, 2012
  9. Fig. By Norbert Berghof (Red.): Picture portfolio Art in the persecution: Degenerate art (exhibition) 1937 in Munich. 18 examples, also supplement: life data and personal testimonials, both Neckar, Villingen 1998, without ISBN.
  10. ↑ Postage stamps January 2020
  11. Barlach-Lied Biermanns
  12. New Germany: Biermann is November 80, 2016
  13. ^ Volkmar Fritsche: Volkmar Fritsche - composer. Retrieved July 6, 2017 .