Georg Kolbe

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Georg Kolbe Georg Kolbe.jpg
Georg Kolbe

Georg Kolbe (15 April 1877 20 November 1947) was the leading German figure sculptor of his generation, in a vigorous, modern, simplified classical style similar to Aristide Maillol of France. [1]

Aristide Maillol sculptor from France

Aristide Joseph Bonaventure Maillol was a French sculptor, painter, and printmaker.


Early life and education

Kolbe was born in Waldheim, Saxony. Originally trained as a painter in Dresden, Munich, and Paris, he began sculpting during a stay in Rome at the turn of the century under the technical guidance of sculptor Louis Tuaillon.

Waldheim, Saxony Place in Saxony, Germany

Waldheim is a town in Mittelsachsen district, in Saxony, Germany.

Kingdom of Saxony former German state

The Kingdom of Saxony, lasting between 1806 and 1918, was an independent member of a number of historical confederacies in Napoleonic through post-Napoleonic Germany. The kingdom was formed from the Electorate of Saxony. From 1871 it was part of the German Empire. It became a Free state in the era of Weimar Republic in 1918 after the end of World War I and the abdication of King Frederick Augustus III of Saxony. Its capital was the city of Dresden, and its modern successor state is the Free State of Saxony.

Dresden Place in Saxony, Germany

Dresden is the capital city and, after Leipzig, the second-largest city of the Free State of Saxony in Germany. It is situated in a valley on the River Elbe, near the border with the Czech Republic.


In 1905, Kolbe joined the 'Berliner Sezession', which in 1913, he left to join the 'Freie Sezession'. [2] His artistic breakthrough came in 1912 with his sculpture masterpiece "Die Tänzerin", his most famous work. As he was very interested in Asian faces, D. N. Mazumdar, father of Indian novelist Anita Desai, sat for him, resulting in a bust and a torso. [3] In 1929, he also collaborated with Lilly Reich and Mies van der Rohe for his sculpture in the Barcelona Pavilion; Mies placed Kolbe's Morgen (Morning) [4] in a small water basin. As the last president of the Deutscher Künstlerbund, he devoted himself to the promotion of fellow artists who were classified "degenerate".

Anita Desai, born Anita Mazumdar is an Indian novelist and the Emerita John E. Burchard Professor of Humanities at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. As a writer she has been shortlisted for the Booker Prize three times. She received a Sahitya Akademi Award in 1978 for her novel Fire on the Mountain, from the Sahitya Akademi, India's National Academy of Letters. She won the British Guardian Prize for The Village by the Sea.

Lilly Reich was a German modernist designer. She was a close collaborator with Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe for more than ten years in the late 1920s and '30s.

Barcelona Pavilion cultural property in Barcelona, Spain

The Barcelona Pavilion, designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, was the German Pavilion for the 1929 International Exposition in Barcelona, Spain. This building was used for the official opening of the German section of the exhibition. It is an important building in the history of modern architecture, known for its simple form and its spectacular use of extravagant materials, such as marble, red onyx and travertine. The same features of minimalism and spectacular can be applied to the prestigious furniture specifically designed for the building, including the iconic Barcelona chair. It has inspired many important modernist buildings.

Kolbe also made ninety-nine prints, beginning with lithographs around 1900, primarily literary illustrations. In 1919-1920, Kolbe practically did not work as a sculptor. During this time small-size sculptures and drawings became central in his works. [5] In the 1920s, encouraged by Cassirer, he made drypoints of dancers and nudes in motion, subjects he favored in his sculpture. [6]

Kolbe executed important commissions throughout his long career, including many for the National Socialists during the last 15 years of his life, although he reportedly refused invitation to sculpt a portrait of Adolf Hitler. [6] The Nazis appropriated his late style of monumental, idealized athletic nudes. From 1937 to 1944, Kolbe participated regularly at Große Deutsche Kunstausstellung, organized by the Haus der Kunst, Munich. His uncharacteristically bombastic Verkündigung (Proclamation) (1924) was a focal point of the 1937 German Pavilion. [7] Commissioned by the German-Spanish economic organization Hisma in 1939, Kolbe created a portrait bust of the Spanish dictator Francisco Franco, which was given to Hitler as a birthday present the same year. In 1944, in the final stages of World War II, Hitler and Joseph Goebbels included Kolbe in the Gottbegnadeten list of the twelve most important visual artists. Only after Kolbe's death, a Beethoven monument (1926−47) and the Ring der Statuen were installed in Frankfurt am Main. The realization of a Friedrich Nietzsche memorial in Weimar failed because of Hitler's appeal.

Adolf Hitler Leader of Germany from 1934 to 1945

Adolf Hitler was a German politician and leader of the Nazi Party. He rose to power as Chancellor of Germany in 1933 and later Führer in 1934. During his dictatorship from 1933 to 1945, he initiated World War II in Europe by invading Poland in September 1939. He was closely involved in military operations throughout the war and was central to the perpetration of the Holocaust.

<i>Haus der Kunst</i> art museum in Munich, Germany

The Haus der Kunst is a non-collecting modern and contemporary art museum in Munich, Germany. It is located at Prinzregentenstraße 1 at the southern edge of the Englischer Garten, Munich's largest park.

Francisco Franco Spanish general and dictator

Francisco Franco Bahamonde was a Spanish general and politician who ruled over Spain as a military dictator from 1939, after the nationalist victory in the Spanish Civil War, until his death in 1975. This period in Spanish history is commonly known as Francoist Spain.

Kolbe died of bladder cancer in St. Hedwig-Krankenhaus in Berlin on 20 November 1947.

Bladder cancer urinary system cancer that results in malignant growth located in the urinary bladder

Bladder cancer is any of several types of cancer arising from the tissues of the urinary bladder. It is a disease in which cells grow abnormally and have the potential to spread to other parts of the body. Symptoms include blood in the urine, pain with urination, and low back pain.

Berlin Capital of Germany

Berlin is the capital and largest city of Germany by both area and population. Its 3,748,148 (2018) inhabitants make it the second most populous city proper of the European Union after London. The city is one of Germany's 16 federal states. It is surrounded by the state of Brandenburg, and contiguous with its capital, Potsdam. The two cities are at the center of the Berlin-Brandenburg capital region, which is, with about six million inhabitants and an area of more than 30,000 km², Germany's third-largest metropolitan region after the Rhine-Ruhr and Rhine-Main regions.


In 2009, an exhibition of Kolbe's Blue Ink Drawings was presented by the State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg. [5] 2017 an exhibition about his artistic, architectural and social network at Georg Kolbe Museum, Berlin (In Berlin's Modernist Network).


Many of Kolbe's 1000 sculptures were destroyed by confiscation, bombing and melting for war purposes. His sculptures are in many museum collections in Europe, USA and Russia, among them the Museum of Modern Art, [6] New York, and the Moderna Museet, Stockholm.

Public sculptures


Modern Architecture in Berlin from 1928/29, Bildarchiv GKM, Photo Duch Hausansicht GKM 2016 Bildarchiv GKM E Duch Web.jpg
Modern Architecture in Berlin from 1928/29, Bildarchiv GKM, Photo Duch

The studio where Kolbe lived and worked from 1929 to 1947 is located in Berlin-Westend, in Sensburger Allee. It was built in 1928/29 based on Kolbe's designs by Architect Ernst Rentsch (and Architect Paul Linder) and borders on a sculpture garden. Today it serves as the Georg Kolbe Museum, a museum dedicated to sculpture of the 20th century and contemporary art. [8]

Among others, the museum has in the past mounted solo exhibitions of Aristide Maillol (1996), Bernhard Hoetger (1998), Henry Moore (1998), Karl Hartung (1998), August Gaul (1999), A.R. Penck (2000), Wilhelm Lehmbruck (2000), Gerson Fehrenbach (2000), Bernhard Heiliger (2000–2001), Wilhelm Loth (2002), Michael Croissant (2003), David Nash (2004), Wieland Förster (2005), Hermann Blumenthal (2006), Max Klinger (2007), Antony Gormley (2007), Johannes Grützke (2007–2008), Otto Herbert Hajek (2008), Ah Xian (2008), Anton Henning (2009), Renée Sintenis (2013/2014), Ruprecht von Kaufmann (2014), Vanitas (with Alicja Kwade, Lucca Trevisani, Dieter Roth, Tomas Saraceno, Thomas Schütte and Pawel Althamer) 2014, Jean Arp - The Navel of the Avant-Garde (2015), Auguste Rodin and Madame Hanako (2016)


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  1. Oxford Index
  3. In conversation: Kiran Desai meets Anita Desai The Guardian , November 11, 2011.
  4. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-01-25. Retrieved 2009-01-14.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  5. 1 2 Georg Kolbe. Blue Ink Drawings, 14 October, 2009 - 17 January, 2010 State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg.
  6. 1 2 3 Georg Kolbe Museum of Modern Art, New York.
  7. Amei Wallach (March 3, 1996), Over Their Shoulders, an Iron Hand New York Times .