* 1870 Wedel/Holstein
† 1938 Rostock
The sculptor, graphic artist and poet Ernst Barlach is born on January 2, 1870 as a son of the country doctor Georg Barlach in Wedel. He studies at the School of Applied Art in Hamburg from 1888 to 1891, and from 1891 to 1895 at the Dresden Art Academy. He goes on his first study stay to Paris in 1895, the second follows in 1897. His first steps as a liberal artist in Hamburg are not easy, he struggles to find an own expression, seeks orientation with Art Nouveau and Symbolism. He makes drawings for the magazine "Jugend" (Youth) from 1898 to 1902. With the aid of Peter Behrens, Ernst Barlach becomes teacher at the School of Ceramics in Höhr (Westerwald). He goes on an eight week journey through Russia and the Ukraine with his brother in 1906, the impressions made there find their way into his works later on. He makes drawings for the satirical magazine "Simplicissimus" in 1907/08. Barlach moves to Berlin, becomes member of the "Berlin Secession" and also starts working as an author.
He is awarded a scholarship for the Villa Romana in Florenc in 1909. Returning to Germany, he stays in Berlin first, then moving to Güstrow (Mecklenburg),m where he will live up until his death. He serves as a soldier in World War I in 1915/16. Barlach assimilates the impression sin his figures, turns to religious figures, but also war themes. He makes expressive figures, their outer appearance blocky, reduced to what is necessary, fully concentrated on line, hands and faces, making an effort to depict the inner sensation.
Ernst Barlach joins the Berlin academy of arts in 1919. The art dealer Paul Cassirer publishes Barlach's drama and cycles of woodcuts, so that he is soon also recognized as author and graphic artist. He is awarded the Kleist prize for his drama in 1924 and becomes honorary member of the Munich Academy of Art a year later.
The anniversary exhibition of the Prussian Academy of Art takes place in Berlin in 1936, showing works by Ernst Barlach, Käthe Kollwitz and Wilhelm Lehmbruck, however, all works are confiscated by the National Socialists. An occupational ban is imposed on him in 1937 and another 371 works are confiscated. Barlach's group of figures "Christus und Johannes" (Christ and John) is shown in the exhibition of degenerate art. Barlach's works from those days reflect feelings of helplessness, despair, hatred and contempt.
He dies in Rostock on October 24, 1938, and is buried on the Ratzeburg cemetery.