Wilhelm Lehmbruck

EXHIBITION 30.03.1963 – 12.05.1963

During the Third Reich, Wilhelm Lehmbruck (1881–1919) belonged to the group of artists banned by the National Socialists, and his sculpture "The Kneeling Woman" (1911) was featured in the "Degenerate Art" exhibition. After the war, at the first documenta in Kassel in 1955, this work was hailed as a symbol of modernity. In 1962, Haus der Kunst, in cooperation with the Bavarian State Painting Collections in Munich, dedicated a retrospective to the artist's oeuvre. The exhibition focused on 46 sculptures, but also draw the viewer's attention to a number of various paintings, drawings, and graphic works, thereby revealing a largely unknown aspect of the artist's body of work.

After studying at the Düsseldorf Academy, from which the miner's son from Duisburg graduated in 1908 as a master student of Karl Janssen, Lehmbruck lived in Paris from 1910 to 1914. He associated with artists such as Henri Matisse, Amedeo Modigliani, and André Derain and the sculptors Constantine Brancusi and Alexander Archipenko, who inspired his work. "The Kneeling Woman" marks Lehmbruck's artistic breakthrough and, with its new dimensions, introduced a turning point in the German sculpture. The stretched proportions accompanied a movement motif that assumes a symbolic character in the graceful gesture of the hand.

At the same time, the artist, whose main subject both as a sculptor and as a painter was the human figure, completes a development that initially bespeaks the influence of Aristide Maillol ("Standing Woman", 1910) in its contemplation of the intrinsic value of the plastic form, unity of the outlines, and simplicity of expression. The towering sculpture of the introspective "Head of a Thinker" (1913/14) and the concentrated force of "Standing Youth" (1913), in contrast, testify to strong emotional movement. They reveal Lehmbruck's goal, as quoted in the catalogue's preface, to make art that is "... full of intensity, full of warmth, full of depth, [with] nothing empty."

In his later work, the transition from figurative sculpture to spatial sculpture is complete and an abstract visual language gains importance. Simultaneously, the search for symbolic expression, as evident in the depiction of "The Turned" (1915/16), reaches its peak. During World War I and already afflicted by a deep melancholy, Lehmbruck – with his portrayal of a man crouching on all fours – created a symbol of the defeated and failed man, without robbing him of his dignity. In the few years of his artistic development until his suicide in 1919, the sculptor succeeded in going from a naturalistic to a mature artistic style; his sculptures are considered metaphors for grief, loneliness, and brokenness, and as the culmination of Expressionism and epitome of the humane.

In cooperation with the Bavarian State Painting Collections in Munich.

The 44-page softbound catalogue includes 22 pages of text and 43 pages of black-and-white illustrations. The cover bears the exhibition's name "Lehmbruck" and a depiction of the bust of "The Kneeling Woman" (1911). An essay on the artist by Herbert von Einem is complemented by a short artist bio, followed by a brief annotated list of works, divided into sculptures, paintings, drawings, and pastels, etchings and lithographs; 191 works are listed. A list of exhibitions 1914–1961 dedicated to the artist and a bibliography complete the text section.

Wilhelm Lehmbruck, Fallen Man, 1915/16, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin – Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Nationalgalerie © bpk Bildagentur, photo Roman März

Stretch your view

Stretch your view


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