Theo Balden

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Theo Balden (born February 6, 1904 near Blumenau , Brazil ; † September 30, 1995 in Berlin ; actually Otto Koehler ) was a German sculptor and graphic artist .

Grave in the Pankow III cemetery

life and work

Otto Koehler was born as the third child of the German emigrant couple Bertha and Otto Koehler on the Rio Raffael near the city of Blumenau. After the father's accidental death in 1905, the mother and her children returned to Germany in 1906 and moved to Berlin . From 1910 Otto attended elementary school and received separate drawing lessons in 1917 because of his talent for drawing.

From 1918 to 1922 Otto Koehler trained as a technical draftsman in the mechanical engineering factory Ludwig Loewe & Co. (Berlin). - He then studied at the Bauhaus in Weimar in 1923/1924 under Lászlo Moholy-Nagy and Oskar Schlemmer, among others . From 1924 he was a freelance artist. In 1928 he joined the KPD and in 1926 also became a member of the Red Aid - a solidarity organization of the KPD. In 1929 Koehler joined the Association of Revolutionary Visual Artists (Asso). After the seizure of power of the Nazis he was active in an illegal resistance group and was arrested in January 1934, but was released after 9 months under police surveillance. In 1935 he was able to flee to Prague with a false passport in the name of Theo Balden . He kept this name in the future.

In Prague, Balden was co-founder and first chairman of the Oskar Kokoschka Association of German and Austrian Artists, named after Oskar Kokoschka . The occupation of Czechoslovakia by the German Wehrmacht in 1939 forced Balden to flee to Great Britain . In London he continued to work as an artist and also worked as a gardener. Here he married Annemarie Romahn (Annemarie Balden-Wolff). After the German attack on France , Balden, like other German emigrants, was interned as an enemy foreigner and brought to Canada with German prisoners of war . After several months in an internment camp , Balden was released in 1941 after the British Royal Academy of Arts had interceded and returned to London. He was involved in metal casting in a foundry and worked for the Derby City Museum . His work has been shown in various exhibitions in the UK.

Two years after the end of the Second World War , in 1947 Theo Balden returned to Germany and settled in East Berlin . From 1948 to 1950 he worked for the satirical magazine Ulenspiegel . From 1950 to 1958 taught at the Berlin-Weißensee art college in the GDR . After early retirement due to a heart attack, Balden then lived as a freelance artist. Observers also interpret his early retirement as a dismissal from university because he expressed himself negatively in the formalism dispute , which had socialist realism as a binding style.

After divorcing Annemarie Romahn in 1952, Balden married Edith Egerland in 1955, with whom he also had a son. In 1970 he became a member of the German Academy of the Arts and in 1974 an honorary member of the Association of Visual Artists of the GDR. He was buried near his last home, in the Pankow III cemetery.


Balden received the following state recognitions:

The GDR Academy of the Arts honored Balden's work in an exhibition (retrospective) in 1984. In the same year he was awarded the University of Greifswald , the honorary doctorate . In 1990 he became honorary professor at the Berlin-Weißensee School of Art.

Sculptures (selection)

  • 1945: warning ,
  • 1955: Ernst Busch ,
  • 1956: old woman in the window ,
  • 1957: Vietnamese freedom fighter ,
  • 1961: torso of a tortured man ,
  • 1960s: Dialogue ( student dormitories in Wundtstraße , Dresden ),
  • 1965: mother with child ,
  • 1967: newspaper reader ,
  • 1967: man in the storm ,
  • 1969: Karl Liebknecht (in Luckau ),
  • 1972: Vogelbaum ,
  • 1972: falling and rising ,
  • 1974: Homage - Victor Jara ,
  • 1974: Siblings , (in Müggelpark at the Spree tunnel in Berlin-Friedrichshagen )
  • around 1974: Draft of a grave relief for the Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp memorial (around 1974, bronze)
  • 1980: Paraphrase to Michelangelo's slaves ,
  • 1982: Pieta perversa II ,
  • 1983: Karl Liebknecht - Heart and Flame of the Revolution (in Potsdam ),
  • 1990: Large torso of a tortured person , 1990. Bronze



  • 1948: first solo exhibition at the Franz Gallery in Berlin
  • 1958–1995: Theo Balden participated in art exhibitions in the GDR, Japan, the Netherlands, Yugoslavia, Syria and France.
  • 1971: Balden's works are exhibited in the National Gallery in Berlin and in the Museum of Fine Arts in Leipzig.


Web links

Commons : Theo Balden  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Theo Balden at , accessed on January 18, 2019.
  2. a b Website on Buchenwald Concentration Camp , Art Collection, Buchenwald and Mittelbau-Dora Memorials Foundation, inv. VI 970 G; accessed on January 18, 2019.
  3. ^ Website Freundeskreis Willy-Brandt-Haus eV , accessed on January 18, 2019.
  4. ^ Website of the Ohse Gallery (Bremen) with a biographical overview and a picture of a work of art by Theo Balden , accessed on January 18, 2019.