Will Grohmann

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Will Grohmann (born December 4, 1887 in Bautzen , † May 6, 1968 in Berlin ) (pseudonym: Olaf Rydberg) was a German art historian and art critic .


Will Grohmann was born as the son of the area sergeant and later postal secretary on Flinzstrasse in Bautzen. The family later moved to Dresden, where he attended the Kreuzschule until he graduated from high school. He studied art and literary history, history, philosophy and oriental studies in Leipzig and Paris. He passed the state examination with distinction. In 1914 he received his doctorate . From 1914 he worked as a teacher in Dresden - mainly at the König-Georg-Gymnasium , where he taught French, English, Italian, Spanish, Latin, Hebrew and Sanskrit . Erich Kästner and Fritz Löffler were his students.

He took part in Dresden's cultural life at an early stage through evening courses and lectures. He took part in the Dresden Secession , sought to meet young painters from the artist group Die Brücke , became a sponsor of the Bauhaus and brought the dancer Mary Wigman to Dresden .

As a committed innovator in all questions of art, he was dismissed from all offices in 1933. He dealt with archaeological topics at the Reichsschrifttumskammer and wrote a. a. about the connections between the oriental and early Christian cultures.

Until his release in 1933 he was also an assistant at the Gemäldegalerie Dresden and worked on the Thieme-Becker dictionary of artists . In 1924 he founded the publication of his famous artist monographs with the volume on Ernst Ludwig Kirchner's drawings . In addition to Kirchner, Grohmann made friendships with the painters Karl Schmidt-Rottluff , Otto Dix , Paul Klee , Wassily Kandinsky , Oskar Schlemmer and Willi Baumeister when the public hardly knew anything about the emerging new art directions. He worked tirelessly for a better understanding of the new art, wrote catalogs for exhibitions, published in international art magazines such as the Cahiers d'Art and made German Expressionism particularly socially acceptable in France. At that time, the opinions of the artists from Brücke and Bauhaus were far apart, and Grohmann managed to tie many threads. The relationship with Paul Klee was closest, as both were very similar as art philosophers. Grohmann particularly knew how to empathize with the thoughts of the artists and, through his profound knowledge, to connect the artists and the audience.

In 1935, under the pseudonym Olaf Rydberg , he wrote a monograph on Gret Palucca , with whom he was in a relationship at the time. Nevertheless, he took an ambivalent attitude in the Third Reich. On the one hand, he maintained contact with the artists who were ostracized as “degenerate” and remained an important confidante and source of information for them. On the other hand, he came to terms with the political system by taking the path of political opportunity and seeking approval for National Socialist art writing.

After 1945 he was appointed rector of the Dresden University of Applied Arts . Due to political differences, however, he moved to the western part of Berlin in 1947 . He became professor of art history at the University of Fine Arts in Berlin-Charlottenburg . For the Berlin edition of the Neue Zeitung, Grohmann wrote from 1947 on topics of the contemporary art business. Of particular importance and direct influence were his reviews of exhibitions in West Berlin, which he wrote several times a month until the paper was discontinued in 1955. He promoted the leading West Berlin galleries of Rosen , Springer , Bremer , Schüler and also Franz in the late 1940s and early 1950s with opening speeches at exhibitions, catalog articles and the like. As a member of the documenta council , he was involved in the Documenta exhibitions in Kassel , the Venice Biennales, and in international exhibitions as a consultant from the USA to Japan. He has been referred to as the pope and doyen of German art criticism . In the 1950s he engaged in sometimes bitter debates with the representational painter and chairman of the re-established German Artists Association , Karl Hofer , about the assessment of representational versus abstract art. Grohmann considered the latter to be the only sustainable one.

He also tracked down new talents, such as B. Gerhard Richter . The Museum of Modern Art in New York made him an honorary member. Grohmann received the Great Cross of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany in 1960 . On the occasion of his 80th birthday, the Will Grohmann Prize was donated. After his death in 1968, the Grohmann Archive was set up in the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart and a scholarship was set up for young artists.

With his writings he promoted abstract art in Germany. He published monographs on Paul Klee , Willi Baumeister , Henry Moore , Heinz Trökes , Wassily Kandinsky and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner , among others . Grohmann had a long friendship with the Greek-French art critic Christian Zervos .

Individual evidence

  1. Willy Grohmann: Verse or prose in the high drama of the eighteenth century . Leipzig 1914.
  2. ^ Olaf Rydberg (di Will Grohmann): The dancer Palucca. Reissner, Dresden 1935.
  3. Martin Schieder : "To be on the spot". Will Grohmann and National Socialism, in: In the network of modernity. Kirchner, Braque, Kandinsky, Klee ... Richter, Bacon, Altenbourg and their critic Will Grohmann (exhibition catalog, Dresden, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden), ed. by Konstanze Rudert, Munich 2012, pp. 35–41.
  4. spiegel.de: HOFER / Kunst ( Der Spiegel 16/1955; accessed on December 30, 2015).
  5. Der Tagesspiegel No. 4588, p. 4 published on October 12, 1960. Newspaper clipping (accessed December 30, 2015).


  • Preface to the exhibition catalog: Japanese contemporary painting . Academy of Arts, Berlin, 1961
  • Rainer Zimmermann : Expressive realism. Painting of the Lost Generation. 2nd edition Munich 1994, ISBN 3-7774-6420-1
  • Martin Schieder: The critic is for art. Will Grohmann and the Modern Age, 1914–1968 . In: Regula Krähenbühl (Ed.): Avant-gardes in the focus of art criticism. A tribute to Carola Giedion-Welcker (1893–1979) . Zurich 2011, pp. 205–222.
  • In memoriam Will Grohmann. 1887-1968. Pioneer of modernity. Exhibition catalog Staatsgalerie Stuttgart 1987/88.
  • Konstanze Rudert (Ed.): Will Grohmann. In the network of modernity. Catalog for the exhibition in the State Art Collections - Kunsthalle im Lipsiusbau Dresden . Hirmer Verlag, Munich, 2012
  • Konstanze Rudert (Ed.): Will Grohmann. Texts on modern art . Hirmer Verlag, Munich, 2012
  • Konstanze Rudert (Ed.): Between intuition and certainty. Will Grohmann and the Reception of Modernism in Germany and Europe 1918-1968 . Sandstein Verlag, Dresden, 2013

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