Werner Schmalenbach

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Werner Schmalenbach (born September 13, 1920 in Göttingen ; † July 6, 2010 in Düsseldorf ) was a German - Swiss art historian and curator .

life and work

Schmalenbach was born the son of the philosopher Herman Schmalenbach . At the age of twelve he moved with his parents to Basel , where his father had received a professorship. After attending the Humanist Gymnasium in Basel , he studied art history with the minor subjects archeology and ethnology at the University of Basel and received his doctorate under Joseph Gantner with the thesis The art of primitive peoples as a source of inspiration for European art up to 1900 . From 1945 to 1955, in addition to his busy work as an art and film journalist, he worked as an exhibition curator at the Gewerbemuseum Basel. As early as 1943 he had worked there with Georg Schmidt and Peter Bächlin on the exhibition “The film - economic, social, artistic”; a book of the same name was published in 1947. In 1946 he took on Swiss citizenship .

From 1955 to 1962 he was director of the Kestnergesellschaft in Hanover , where he carried out numerous exhibitions on contemporary artists at the time. B. Kurt Schwitters , Julius Bissier , Antoni Tàpies , Emil Schumacher and Bruno Goller as well as various representatives of the École de Paris such as Maria Helena Vieira da Silva , Jean Dubuffet , Nicolas de Staël , Hans Hartung and Pierre Soulages . Werner Schmalenbach was a member of the working committee of documenta II and III in Kassel in 1959 and 1964. In 1968 he resigned "for reasons of artistic conviction". As commissioner of the Venice Biennale , he showed Kurt Schwitters in the international section in 1960. In 1961, 1963 and 1965 he was also commissioner of the São Paulo Biennale . He was also represented on international juries such as the Ljubljana Graphics Biennale, Tokyo Graphics Biennale, Biennale de Paris, ROSC Dublin, and later Praemium Imperiale.

From 1962 until his retirement in 1990 he was the first director of the newly founded North Rhine-Westphalia Art Collection in Düsseldorf . During this time he brought together one of the most important collections of 20th century painting, including works by Pablo Picasso , Henri Matisse , Georges Braque , Amedeo Modigliani , Fernand Léger , Max Ernst , Joan Miró , Lyonel Feininger , Max Beckmann , Marc Chagall , Paul Klee , René Magritte , Giorgio de Chirico , Jackson Pollock and Antoni Tàpies .

Schmalenbach last lived in Meerbusch near Düsseldorf. In an obituary in the Spiegel , Schmalenbach was described as a "legendary art historian".

The film With Distance and Engagement provides a portrait of Werner Schmalenbach . Portrait of Werner Schmalenbach by Detlev F. Neufert (WDR). In the series Energies / Synergies, published by the Kunststiftung NRW, the conversation recordings with Eduard Beaucamp were published in 2011 by Verlag Walther König. In 2011, the Walther König publishing house also published six speeches on two CDs "Werner Schmalenbach speaks about Bissier, Goller, Kirchner, Schumacher, Schwitters and Tàpies", ed. by Anna Schlueter.

Schmalenbach also contributed to the television series 1000 Masterpieces : he contributed to paintings by George Grosz , Kurt Schwitters . These texts were also printed in the books accompanying the series, are sporadically repeated on 3sat , ZDFkultur and Planet and are now available on DVD publications (see 1000 Masterworks # Literature ).

In 2016, the Cologne-based art psychologist and psychotherapist Ralf Debus published an introduction to the Gestalt psychology of viewing art. In doing so, he took Schmalenbach's work descriptions as a basis, which he had developed in discussions with Susanne Henle.

Fonts (selection)

  • The art of Africa. Holbein Verlag, Basel 1953.
  • Jean-Paul Riopelle , Kestner Society , Hanover 1958.
  • Julius Bissier , Kestner Society, Hanover 1958.
  • Alfred Manessier , Kestner Society, Hanover 1958.
  • Julius Bissier . Gerd Hatje publishing house, Stuttgart 1963.
  • Kurt Schwitters. Publishing house DuMont Schauberg, Cologne 1974.
  • Antoni Tàpies - signs and structures. Propylaea Verlag, Berlin 1974.
  • Fernand Leger. DuMont, Cologne 1977.
  • Eduardo Chillida - Drawings. Propylaea Verlag, Berlin 1977.
  • Emil Schumacher. DuMont, Cologne 1981.
  • Joan Miró - drawings from the later years. Propylaea Verlag, Berlin 1982.
  • Twentieth Century Images. Prestel Verlag, Munich 1986.
  • Amedeo Modigliani - paintings - drawings - sculptures. Prestel Verlag, Munich 1990.
  • The desire for the picture - a life with art. Siedler Verlag, Berlin 1996.
  • Art! Talking, writing, arguing. DuMont Buchverlag, Cologne 2000.
  • A little gallop through art history. DuMont literature and art publishing house, Cologne 2001.
  • About the love of art and the truth of images. (Conversations with Susanne Henle) Hatje Cantz, Ostfildern-Ruit 2004, ISBN 3-7757-1463-4 .


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Jahresring, Kulturkreis im Bundesverband der Deutschen Industrie, Oktagon Verlag, 1985, No. 32–33, p. 309.
  2. Werner Schmalenbach: The desire for the picture . Siedler, Berlin 1996, ISBN 3-88680-494-1 .
  3. ^ Spiegel Online : Curator Schmalenbach died, July 6, 2010.