Barlach, Ernst (1870-1938)

Ernst Barlach_The Avenger_64
The Avenger by Ernst Barlach

Barlach was an expressionist sculptor, printmaker and writer.

Schwebender Engel (“Hovering Angel”) by Ernst Barlach

I’m not sure why, but these sculptures appeal to me.  EB describes his work as “modern Gothic,” and says that he features “heavy, massive figures in rigid drapery, animated by a single, forceful movement.”  He “emulated the blocky, rough-hewn quality of wood sculpture to achieve a more brutal effect.”

Since Barlach was an Expressionist, I wanted to know what that movement was. According to Wikipedia (“Expressionism”),  artists sought to express the meaning of emotional experience rather than physical reality.  They  present the world solely from a subjective perspective, distorting it radically for emotional effect in order to evoke moods or ideas.  Here is a clear example of this:

The Scream by Edvard Munch (1893)

It is so rare to get a clear definition of an artistic movement–I usually get lost by a long series of abstractions–so thanks, Wikipedia!

Barlach’s Hovering Angel made me wonder how I’d sculpt an angel.  Should he be heavy, reflecting the power of God, or light and graceful?  Should he be frightening, since every Biblical character but Mary was frightened out of their wits by an angel’s appearance?  I would definitely dispense with the wings, not only because they are a cliche, but also because most moderns don’t realize that they were simply a medieval symbol for the speed of God’s messenger.

How would you sculpt an angel?

Photo credits:




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