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: Catalogue: Ernst Barlach's The Avenger


Goldthwaite Higginson Dorr III



Institution Minneapolis Institute of Arts
The stark expressionism of The Avenger evokes violent emotions. All-consuming dynamism is bound within the running figure by sharp angles and lines. “The utmost, the innermost, the gentle gesture of piety, the wild thrust of rage—for everything there is expressive form.”1 Barlach's credo, formulated in 1906-1910, is superbly illustrated in this bronze. The idea grew from a lithograph and plaster cast to a woodcarving and bronze casting in the period 1914-1922, and the final form expresses the violence of its period of germination. The final version also contains certain affinities with the Gothic aesthetic.Barlach was greatly admired by the German Expressionists, but he was never a member of their group. From the late 1920s, his work grew in mystic content as he himself turned inward. He suffered with other German artists the disfavor of the Nazis. Yet unlike many, he remained in his native town to die, an anguished, unloved man.Endnotes
  1. Naomi C. A. Jackson, “Ernst Barlach: Gothick Modern,” Art News, LIV:38, December, 1955, p. 41.
Referenced Work of Art
  1. Ernst Barlach, German, 1870-1938. The Avenger, 1923 (Der Rächer). Bronze, 17” x 23 1/4”. Signed on top of base: E. Barlach. Founder's mark, side of base, upper right: H. Noack, Berlin. Accession 58.4.CollectionsFine Arts Associates, New York; The P. D. McMillan Land Company, Minneapolis, 20 June, 1957; The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Gift of the P. D. McMillan Land Company, 3 January, 1958.CastsWalter Bareiss, Greenwich, Connecticut
    Joseph H. Hirshhorn, New York
    Wallraf-Richartz Museum, Cologne, GermanyReferencesNaomi C. A. Jackson, “Ernst Barlach: Gothic Modern,” Art News, LIV:38, December, 1955, p. 41.
    Richard S. Davis, “Modern Sculpture in Minnesota,” The Minneapolis Institute of Arts Bulletin, XLVIII:2, April-June, 1959, p. 2.
    Ernst Hanswedel, Ernst Barlach: das Plastische Werke, Hamburg, Hanswedel, 1960, p. 167.
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Source: Goldthwaite Higginson Dorr III, "Catalogue: Ernst Barlach's The Avenger," <i>The Minneapolis Institute of Arts Bulletin</i> 50, no. 4 (December, 1961): 56-57.
Rights: ©MIA
Added to Site: March 10, 2009