Wolfgang Balzer (art historian)

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Gustav Johannes Wolfgang Balzer (born July 3, 1884 in Dresden ; † May 11, 1968 in Radebeul ) was a German art historian .


After attending primary school and the Dreikönigsgymnasium in Dresden-Neustadt from 1890 to 1903, Wolfgang Balzer studied art and literature, modern languages ​​and philosophy at the universities of Tübingen, Leipzig and Munich until 1908. He received his doctorate as Dr. phil. based on a dissertation on the history of French art criticism ( Gustav Planchet 1808–1854, critic in the Revue des Deux Mondes ) with August Schmarsow in Leipzig.

In 1909 a longer study trip to Paris followed, followed by a year of military service in the 13th Jäger Battalion in Dresden. Between 1910 and 1914 he worked as an art consultant at the Leipziger Volkszeitung , whose features section under Dr. Gustav Morgenstern occupied a leading position in the entire German socialist press. During these years, Wolfgang Balzer went on study trips to Germany, France and Switzerland. In 1914 he was drafted into the army and was in the field until 1918.

From 1919 to 1923 he was literary advisor at the Städtische Bücherhalle Leipzig, at the same time the features editor of the SPD daily newspaper "Freie Presse" in Leipzig and employee of other newspapers. In addition, he also worked as a lecturer and gave lectures at the adult education centers in Dresden and Leipzig as well as for workers' education organizations. From October 1, 1923, Wolfgang Balzer was director of the Dresden Museum of Applied Arts .

After Hitler came to power, Balzer was taken into protective custody for several days in March 1933. After the dismissal, however, on December 1, 1933, he was transferred to permanent retirement due to the so-called law for the “restoration of the professional civil service”. Until the beginning of the war in 1939 he made several trips to Zurich and Paris for private art-historical studies. During the attack on Dresden on 13/14 In February 1945 Balzer was bombed out and lost all of his scientific material and his private art collection.

On May 22, 1945, Wolfgang Balzer was appointed by the Soviet military administration in Germany as acting director of the Museum of Decorative Arts and the porcelain collection. From November 1, 1945 to August 31, 1946, he was appointed director of the Dresden Museum of Decorative Arts, and he continued to manage the Dresden Porcelain Collection on a temporary basis. With the establishment and opening of the so-called "Central Museum of the Federal State of Saxony" in Pillnitz Castle and the subsequent dismissal of the director Ragna Enking and her staff in July 1946, the management of this central museum was handed over to him.

From September 1, 1946 to January 31, 1951 he was director of the now so-called State Art Collections in Dresden . His area of ​​responsibility included the picture gallery in Pillnitz, the newly established graphic collection with the central art library, the sculpture collection (cast collection) in the Albertinum , the porcelain collection and the arts and crafts museum . He was also responsible for setting up Moritzburg Castle as a baroque museum, the historic rooms of Albrechtsburg Castle in Meißen and Weesenstein Castle, as well as Stolpen Castle . In the summer of 1946, as a member of the SED, he was appointed city councilor in Dresden.

After his retirement, he was arrested on April 25, 1951 for infidelity in office and for obtaining an illegal financial advantage in a particularly serious case in connection with the graphic collection of Friedrich August II. From Moritzburg. On May 10, 1951, he was released after the arrest warrant was repealed. He spent the years up to his death with a lively collection and lecturing activity as well as publications and the like. a. on Ludwig Richter , Hans Theo Richter , the Dresden Gallery, French Impressionism and Honoré Daumier .

In 1961 he donated 125 paintings by contemporary Dresden artists and 10 sheets by Käthe Kollwitz to the Bautzen City Museum . In his legacy from 1966, which was carried out after his death in 1968, around 3,000 graphic sheets, 250 drawings, 110 illustrated books and 1,100 volumes of an art-scientific nature as well as a monetary donation to increase the graphic inventory went to the Kupferstich-Kabinett Dresden and more works to the City Museum Bautzen.

Balzer last lived in the Niederlößnitz district of Radebeul in a former winery building at Finsteren Gasse 2 .

Publications (selection)

  • Hans Theo Richter , with a catalog of the lithographs from the years 1948 to 1956. Verlag der Kunst, Dresden 1955.
  • together with Eva Schulze-Knabe : Fritz Schulze , artist and fighter. With an introduction by Wolfgang Balzer and a portrait of the artist by Eva Schulze-Knabe. Sachsenverlag, Dresden 1950.
  • French impressionism. The main masters in painting . 1st edition, Verlag der Kunst, Dresden 1958.
  • The young Daumier and his comrades in arms. Political cartoon in France 1830-1835 . Verlag der Kunst, Dresden 1965.
  • To the pictures by Josef Hegenbarth . In: Journal of Art. 2nd year 1948, booklet 2. Seemann, Leipzig 1948.
  • Dresden gallery. 120 masterpieces from the 15th to 18th centuries . 3rd supplemented edition (With 120 partly color illustrations after photos by Heinrich Loew on Tfln.) EA Seemann, Leipzig 1959.
  • as editor: Ludwig Richter. Early drawings. 1823 to 1826 . Verlag der Kunst, Dresden 1954.


  • Frank Andert (Red.): Radebeul City Lexicon . Historical manual for the Loessnitz . Published by the Radebeul City Archives. 2nd, slightly changed edition. City archive, Radebeul 2006, ISBN 3-938460-05-9 .
  • Julia Friedrich, Andreas Prinzing (Ed.): “That's how you just started, without many words”. Exhibition and collection policy in the first years after the Second World War , Museum Ludwig Cologne 2013
  • Thomas Rudert: Fraud and unfaithfulness in office or ethically and morally required safeguarding of endangered works of art? Wolfgang Balzer and the graphic collection of the Saxon King Friedrich August II. , In: Dresdener Kunstblätter 02/2010, pp. 116–126
  • Thomas Rudert: On a knife edge. About the difficult new beginning in the Dresden State Collections for Art and Science after the end of the Second World War , in: Julia Friedrich, Andreas Prinzing, “This is how you simply started, without many words”. Exhibition and Collection Policy in the First Years after World War II , Museum Ludwig Cologne, 2013, pp. 186–213
  • Special exhibitions "Drawings from the Wolfgang Balzer Legacy" 1968 in the series acquisitions no. 18, "Graphics of German Impressionists from the Wolfgang Balzer bequest" 1971, acquisitions no. 20 and "Graphics of the German Expressionists from the Wolfgang Balzer bequest" 1977, acquisitions no 25

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Overview of the estate of Prof. Dr. Johann Gustav Wolfgang Balzer - Mscr.Dresd.App. 2550. SLUB Dresden, accessed on January 27, 2020 .