Rudolf Belling

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Rudolf Edwin Belling (born August 26, 1886 in Berlin , † June 9, 1972 in Krailling near Munich ) was a German sculptor .

Family and education

Belling received a rather conservative upbringing from his parents Ernst and Helene (née Thomas). From 1892 to 1901 he attended the Steglitz elementary school, then the Prussian-military boarding school Luisenstift . He started a commercial apprenticeship, which he completed. It was clear to him that he did not want to become a businessman and he began to work as an apprentice in a craft workshop. Then he went through further training at a craft school.

Belling also continued his autodidactic training, attended evening courses for drawing and modeling as well as anatomy lectures for artists at the Berlin Veterinary University . In 1908, Belling, together with Emil Kaselow, set up a studio for small-scale sculpture, decoration and applied arts. From 1909 the company took on special orders for Max Reinhardt's theater performances . After the studio was closed in 1910, he worked in the lamination department of a stage workshop. During this time he made important acquaintances such as Max Reinhardt, Ernst Stern , his expressionist chief stage designer and Hans Poelzig . By working as a set designer, Belling got to know the new tendencies of expressionist art and literature. The theater strongly shaped the themes and symbolism of his subsequent works, the motif of dance can be found again and again. In 1911, Peter Breuer , professor of sculpture at the Berlin-Charlottenburg Art Academy , became aware of Belling and accepted him as a master class student without any preliminary studies. In addition, Breuer made his own student studio available to him. Study trips took him to Belgium, Holland, England and France in 1913.

This change made it possible for Belling, on the one hand, to give his autodidactic study as a sculptor an academic basis and, on the other hand, to continue to earn money through stage design. During this time he dealt with the theories of Adolf von Hildebrand in his book "The Problem of Form in Fine Art". Between 1915 and 1917 Belling served as a soldier in the Berlin-Adlershof air force , where he worked in the model department.

Work council for art and November group in Berlin

From the end of 1918, after the proclamation of the republic by Philipp Scheidemann , Belling also got caught up in a vortex of revolutionary events and new ideas. The Art Labor Council was founded in Berlin , in which Belling was also represented. In December of the same year the progressive artists' association “ Novembergruppe ” was founded, of which Belling was a co-founder of the exhibition commission . Belling was on the group's board of directors until 1932.

Roaring twenties and recognition as a sculptor

His famous sculpture Dreiklang was created in 1919 . In addition, Belling devoted himself to applied arts and Art Deco during this period . In 1920 and 1921 he made advertising structures and mannequins. In 1925 he married the dancer Toni Freeden . Between 1924 and 1926 Belling went on a study trip through Europe. In the following years, Belling worked together with a number of important architects on private and public buildings and also designed numerous sculptural portraits. As a full member of the German Association of Artists , Rudolf Belling took part in the 1929 DKB anniversary exhibition ( "25 Years of the German Association of Artists" ) in the Cologne State House on the Rheinpark with a bronze bust of President Friedrich Ebert .

In 1931 Belling was appointed a member of the Prussian Academy of Arts in Berlin. In 1932 he took part in the art competitions of the Summer Olympics in Los Angeles with the sculpture The Boxer and received an "Honorable Mention".

Life under National Socialism and Exile in Turkey

After the handover of power to the National Socialists in 1933, however, it was increasingly boycotted and defamed as "degenerate". In 1935 Belling was given a teaching position in New York at the private Annoth Art School . In the same year he divorced his wife. He returned to Germany in 1936 , but political circumstances forced him to leave his home country again. Works by Belling were shown at the first Great German Art Exhibition in 1937, but also at the Degenerate Art exhibition . In 1936 Belling became a professor and head of the sculpture class at the Istanbul Art Academy . In 1937 he resigned from the Prussian Academy and emigrating, by Hans Poelzig conveyed into Turkey . He lectured at the art academy in Istanbul from 1937 to 1952. In 1942 he married Jolanda Manzini . In 1944 his home and studio in Berlin-Lichterfelde (Ostpreußendamm 20a) was bombed and many drafts and originals were irretrievably destroyed. From 1952 to 1965 Belling had a teaching assignment for basic artistic theory and modeling at the architecture faculty of the Technical University of Istanbul .

The last few years in Krailling

In 1966 Belling returned to Germany. He died in 1972 in Krailling near Munich. His daughter Elisabeth Weber-Belling looks after the estate in Munich.


Dreiklang , 1919
Memorial plaque in the house, Dudenstrasse 10, in Berlin-Kreuzberg

Belling's work can be divided into three parts, his time in Berlin until the 30s, his life in exile in Turkey and his last years in Munich.

From 1912 Belling began to create expressive cubist sculptures. He was influenced by futuristic and constructivist ideas, especially by Alexander Archipenko , with whom he was friends. The high point of his artistic creation is his work Dreiklang, the first German sculpture of this kind, in which he tries to create the idea of ​​a union of art directions (painting, sculpture, architecture). In the same year the Bauhaus was founded, which represented the same understanding of space and form. The musical consideration of the title is secondary, even if his works are often based on the motif of the dancer. However, Belling no longer saw his formal language derived from reality, but admitted that his complete abstraction could well approach realities. He emphasized that this relation to the objective is accidental and by no means deliberate. Dreiklang is a round sculpture , so there is no longer a specific main view, each view is regarded as equivalent, which contradicts Hildebrand's art-theoretical ideas in particular. Characteristic is the relationship between space and sculpture, which Belling considered to be of equal value and thus allowed his sculpture to emerge from their interplay. Belling himself aptly described his way of working: "When I make a sculpture, I organize the forms and let them grow like a tree or a person." It should also be noted that he saw himself primarily as a craftsman and not as an artist. From 1920, the focus was primarily on the topic of “man-technology-machine” and the use of new materials. He turned increasingly to architecture. In 1926 the "Horchtier" was created, a hood ornament for the Horch car company , which was never used due to a merger between Horch and Audi . In addition, architectural works and abstract fountain sculptures were created during this time, sometimes through collaboration with architects such as Luckhardt, Würzbach, Neutra and Korn. In them he tried to break through the statics of normal sculptures through the moving component of water. The idea of ​​a total work of art is clearly incorporated.

The circumstance of his emigration to Turkey marked the following period of his work.

Works (selection)

"Rubble Flower", 1972
  • 1912: "The Dance" in bronze, location: Saarland Museum ( posthumous cast)
  • 1915: "wounded"
  • 1916: "Dancer" in gilded wood, privately owned
  • 1916: "Struggle" (as a gender struggle).
  • 1916: "Der Flieger" in stained and varnished limewood, size: 63.5 cm × 30.5 cm × 22 cm, location: German Historical Museum Foundation
  • 1918: "Human" in limestone, location: Museum Folkwang
  • 1918: Small group “Nature”; Location of the casts: National Gallery Berlin (permanent loan from the State of Berlin ), Germanisches Nationalmuseum (permanent loan from private collection (Hoh collection)); Material: plaster cast, based on a design by the artist César Klein, set in gold bronze, painted in black, red and green (most of the paint has peeled off), size: 75.5 × 31.5 × 20 cm; Preliminary draft for the sculpture Große Gruppe Natur ; The original plaster model was probably lost in 1944 in a bombing raid on Berlin, which also hit the Belling studio. The figure is still largely naturalistic, but approaches of abstraction are already clearly recognizable.
  • 1918: Large group "Nature", sculpture for the villa of the Berlin publisher Wolfgang Gurlitt built by the architect Walter Würzbach (installed in the niche of the courtyard passage, destroyed with the building in the Second World War)
  • 1919: "Dreiklang" (cast bronze 1969/1970, size: 90 cm × 87 cm × 77 cm), location: Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus (permanent loan from the Munich Re Art Collection)
  • 1920: "Erotik" in bronze, size: 32 cm × 32 cm × 26 cm, location: Museum Folkwang
  • 1920: multi-storey, futuristic fountain for the Scala (dance hall with wine restaurant) rebuilt by architect Walter Würzbach
  • 1921: organic forms ("striding") in silver-plated bronze, size: 54 cm × 21 cm × 18 cm, location: Nationalgalerie Berlin (loan from the Association of Friends of the Nationalgalerie)
  • 1921: Head in polished mahogany wood, size: 52.5 cm × 21 cm × 21 cm, Location: Nationalgalerie Berlin (loan from the Association of Friends of the Nationalgalerie)
  • 1923: "Sculpture 23" in polished brass, size: 20 cm × 43 cm × 20 cm, locations: including the Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, Museum Folkwang, Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien
  • 1923: Model for an Olex gas station
  • 1924: Head in brass (bust of his wife Toni Freeden / Toni Friedländer) in the Art Deco style. Locations: including the Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, Folkwang-Museum and Staatsgalerie Stuttgart
  • 1925: (female) head in brass, location: Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus (acquired in 1981)
  • 1926: mythical creatures, so-called "Horch animal" designed as a hood ornament for the car manufacturing company Horch (not used for mass production)
  • 1927: Portrait bust of the art dealer Alfred Flechtheim , size: 19 cm
  • 1929: Ceramic relief of Saint Dorothea , location: Dorotheenschule in Berlin-Köpenick, corner of Oberspreestraße / Menzelstraße
  • 1929: Bronze "The Boxer Max Schmeling ", 54 cm × 27 cm × 29 cm
  • 1930: Portrait bust of the director Josef von Sternberg in bronze
  • 1932: Bust of the educationalist Georg Kerschensteiner in bronze, location: Friedrich-Ebert-Gymnasium (Hamburg)
  • 1938: Equestrian statue of the Turkish President Ismet Inönü
  • 1944: Statue of the Turkish President Ismet Inönü, location: Agricultural Faculty of Ankara University
  • 1967: Lithograph "Design for metal plates and wire II"
  • 1968: Symbol of community in bronze, location: Hamburg-Osdorfer Born, Glückstädter Weg / Bornheide
  • 1972: "Schuttblume" , location: Olympiaberg , Munich


In 1955 he was awarded the Great Federal Cross of Merit by Federal President Theodor Heuss . In 1956 he was reappointed a member of the Academy of Arts in Berlin and in 1961 the Berlin Art Prize . His work was honored in 1967 and 1976 in Munich and in 1971 in St. Gallen. In the same year, Belling also received an honorary doctorate from the Technical University of Munich . In 1972 he was awarded the Federal Cross of Merit with a star.

Solo exhibitions

  • 1919: Gurlitt Gallery, Berlin
  • 1920: Galerie Alfred Flechtheim , Düsseldorf
  • 1921: Galerie Flechtheim, Cologne
  • 1921: Galerie Goyert, Cologne
  • 1924: National Gallery , Berlin
  • 1935: Galerie Weyhe, New York
  • 1956: Karl Ernst Osthaus Museum , Hagen
  • 1957: Galerie Wolfgang Gurlitt , Munich
  • 1962: Galerie Vömel, Düsseldorf
  • 1962: Academic Art Museum, Berlin
  • 1965: Exhibition by the German Art Council, Ankara, Istanbul
  • 1967: Galerie Ketterer, Munich
  • 1971: National Gallery, Berlin
  • 2017: Rudolf Belling. Sculptures and architecture . Hamburger Bahnhof , Berlin. Catalog.

Group exhibitions

  • 1937: Large German art exhibition with the bronze statue Boxer Schmeling , Munich
  • 1937: Munich: Degenerate Art with the Sculpture Dreiklang , Munich
  • 2017: Evil Expressionism . Bielefeld Art Gallery , Bielefeld


  • Winfried Nerdinger : Rudolf Belling and the art movements in Berlin 1918–1923. Berlin 1981 (with catalog raisonné).
  • Jan Pierre van Rijen, in Christian Tümpel: German sculptors 1900–1945. Degenerate? Zwolle 1992, p. 203.
  • Belling, Rudolf , in: Hans Vollmer (Ed.): General Lexicon of Fine Artists of the XX. Century. First volume (A – D) , EA Seemann, Leipzig 1999 (study edition). ISBN 3-363-00730-2 (p. 162)
  • Arnold Reisman: Turkey's Modernization. Refugees from Nazism and Ataturk's Vision. New Academia, Washington DC 2006, ISBN 0-9777908-8-6 ( previous text from 2004 as abstract in Art. Exile in Turkey 1933–1945) In English online searchable in google books (Belling: 10 mentions).
  • Dieter Scholz (ed.), Christina Thomson: Rudolf Belling. Sculptures and architecture. Hirmer, Munich 2017.

Web links

Commons : Rudolf Belling  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Adolf von Hildebrand: The problem of form in the fine arts , Strasbourg, 1893.
  2. Arne Sildatke: Decorative Modernism. The Art Deco in the spatial art of the Weimar Republic LIT Verlag Münster, 2013. ISBN 3-64312-293-4 , pp. 18-19 u. a.
  3. Full members of the German Association of Artists since it was founded in 1903 / Belling, Rudolf ( Memento of the original from November 10, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link has been inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. (accessed on April 11, 2017) @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  4. s. Catalog of the Deutscher Künstlerbund Cologne 1929. May – September 1929 in the State House , M. DuMont Schauberg, Cologne 1929. (p. 14: Belling, Rudolf, Berlin , cat. No. 34: Bust of Reich President Ebert (Br.) , Ill. P . 46)
  5. The Games of the Xth Olympiad Los Angeles 1932. Official Report , 1933, p 758 ( Digitalisat , PDF, 73.4 MB).
  6. ^ Franz Kotteder : Nazi exhibitions in the House of Art. Hitler's art henchmen. Süddeutsche Zeitung , October 24, 2011, accessed on October 10, 2012 : “In 1937, for example, the absurd paradox arose that the sculptor Rudolf Belling exhibited at the invitation of the jury in the 'Great German' and at the same time in the hate show 'Degenerate Artists 'a hundred meters further in the courtyard garden was ostracized as' alien'. "
  7. ^ Paul Monty Paret: Forget Rudolf Belling. Getting the Carl Einstein We Deserve. Walter de Gruyter, Berlin 2012, p. 108.
  8. The holy Dorthea distributes bread to refugees (wall relief), 1928/29 ( Memento of the original from June 13, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. - Rudolf Belling (sculpture in Berlin) @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  9. Symbol of togetherness - Rudolf Belling (by Elisabeth Hase, fotocommunity)