Barlach, Ernst

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Barlach, Ernst

(ĕrnst bär`läkh), 1870–1938, German expressionist sculptor, graphic artist, and writer. After studying at the Dresden Art Academy he lived in Paris (1895–96) and in Berlin, Hamburg, and other German cities. A trip to Russia in 1906 gave new impetus to his art. Barlach pioneered in the introduction of expressionism into Germany. Through the power of his simple, angular, and compact forms, he communicated intense emotion and compassion. From clay modeling he turned to wood carving and woodcutting. Many of his works were destroyed by the Nazis; however, some remain in Lüneberg and the Busch-Reisinger Museum, Cambridge, Mass. Barlach illustrated some of his poems and plays.


See his Three Plays (tr. 1964); study by Carl D. Carls (1969).

Barlach, Ernst


Born Jan. 2, 1870, in Wedel, Schleswig-Holstein; died Oct. 24,1938, in Rostock. German sculptor, graphic artist, and writer.

Barlach studied at the arts and industrial school in Hamburg (1888–91), at the Academy of Arts in Dresden (from 1891), and in Paris (1895–96). In 1906 he visited Russia. After 1910 he worked in Güstrow. In Barlach’s creative work the plastic language of German Gothic art was reinterpreted in the spirit of expressionism. In his sculpture the strong internal movement, which permeates the stocky, generalized forms of the human body, is sharply contrasted with the reserved nature of the static composition, thereby creating great emotional tension by purely plastic means. Barlach worked primarily in wood. Humanistic and marked by a passionate rejection of militarism, Barlach’s art was persecuted in fascist Germany. Barlach was forbidden to work, and his works were confiscated or destroyed.

Barlach’s works include war memorials in cathedrals in Güstrow (today in the Antoniterkirche in Cologne; bronze, 1927) and in Magdeburg (wood, 1929); illustrations to his own drama The Poor Cousin (lithograph, 1919); and illustrations to Goethe’s Faust (woodcuts, 1923).


Das dichterische Werk; vols. 1–3. Munich, 1956–59.


Shmidt, Iu. “Ernst Barlakh.” Tvorchestvo, 1968, no. 7.
Carls, K. D. Ernst Barlach, 6th ed. Berlin, [1954].
Fechter, P. Ernst Barlach. Gütersloh, 1957.
Fühmann, F. Ernst Barlach. . . . Rostock, 1964.
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