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Das Wiedersehen (Meeting Again)

On view

Das Wiedersehen (Meeting Again)

Artist: Ernst Barlach (German, 1870 - 1938)

Date: 1926
Medium: Bronze
Dimensions:
Overall: 18 1/2 x 4 3/4 x 7 1/2in. (47 x 12.1 x 19.1cm)
Signed: Top of base behind taller figure
Markings: Foundry stamp: 'INDACK BERLIN'
Credit Line: Museum Purchase
Object number: 56.1
Label Text
Ernst Barlach was an artist and writer of a profoundly religious nature who endured censorship at the hands of the Nazis during the 1930s in his native Germany. His figures are reminiscent of German medieval sculptures and, in their humble forms and demeanors, they possess a simple dignity. While Das Wiedershen has been variously interpreted, it undoubtedly was inspired by the Christian story of Jesus' return from the dead and the recognition by the apostle Thomas. The Gospel of John 20:24-29 relates that Thomas had not been present when the resurrected Jesus first re-appeared to his disciples. Upon hearing of this reunion, the skeptical Thomas stated he would not believe unless " I see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into his side." John then reports that Jesus reappeared in another week's time and instructed Thomas to do just that, to which Thomas responded, "My Lord and my God!"

Mary E. Murray
2005

Text Entries

The theme of two embracing figures was one Ernst Barlach developed for several years in several media. In 1922 he created a woodcut that was one of twenty illustrations for his 1920 play, The Foundling, published by his dealer, Paul Cassirer. The woodcut illustration is titled “Ein braver Mann muss gehn und betteln (A good man must panhandle).” In it Barlach depicted a disheveled-looking figure with a bent back, at right in the image, being comforted by another figure, at left, who stands taller and is clean-shaven.[1] According to Friedrich Schulte, in his catalogue raisonné of Barlach’s oeuvre, the artist also created two drawings of a similar subject in 1922.[2] Barlach continued to explore the theme of two embracing figures when, in 1925-26, he carved Das Wiedersehen in wood.[3] This work was included in an exhibition of thirty-seven wooden sculptures at the Cassirer Gallery, Berlin, in February 1926.[4]  In 1930, Barlach cast the subject in bronze.[5] 

The iconography of Das Wiedershen has been variously interpreted. Carls’ 1931 monograph refers to it as The Reunion (Christ and the Apostle Thomas).[6] Schult’s 1959 catalogue raisonné lists four related works, created in plaster, bronze, wood and stucco, all called Das Wiedersehen.[7] While the title alone does not suggest Biblical subject matter, the text accompanying the entry for the wooden version of the sculpture, catalog number 307, identifies the two figures as Christ and Thomas. The entry for catalogue number 305, plaster, mentions a 1922 charcoal drawing reproduced as Plate 5 in the 1948 Ernst Barlach, Zeichnungen with another New Testament title of Judaskuss, or Kiss of Judas.[8] The catalogue for a 1962-63 touring Smithsonian Institution exhibition, Ernst Barlach, refers to the sculpture as Christ Appearing to Thomas (Das Wiedersehen).[9] Similarly, in Alfred Werner’s 1966 study it is titled The Reunion; also called Christ and Thomas, and the author describes it as “inspired by the story of Christ’s return from the dead and the recognition by Doubting Thomas.”[10] Finally, according to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s 1991 exhibition catalogue, Degenerate Art:  The Fate of the Avant-Garde in Nazi Germany, the work was initially titled Christus und Johannes (Christ and John), but was subsequently renamed Das Wiedersehen (Meeting Again), by the Nazis when the Third Reich included it in the infamous “Entartete Kunst (Degenerate Art)” exhibition at the Archäologisches Institut, Munich, from July 19-November 30, 1937.[11]

 

By the time the “Degenerate Art” show was staged, Barlach had already endured Nazi censorship for several years. In 1937, three hundred eighty-one of his sculptures, including Das Wiedersehen, and graphics were removed from all public German collections. According to Dagmar Grimm, writing in the 1991 LACMA catalogue, Das Wiedersehen was targeted due to Barlach’s “pacifist—some say defeatist—themes, which were considered an insult to the German spirit, and his frequent portrayal of ‘inferior racial types’ . . .”[12]  In the same catalogue, Mario-Andreas von Lüttichau further documented that Barlach’s sculpture was included in gallery three of “Degenerate Art,” although “sometime on or after the morning of July 24 this was replaced by another sculpture . . . There is no information as to what happened to the Barlach bronze in the interim, but the inventory number assigned to it . . . indicates that it was back on view by the end of the exhibition when the list was compiled.”[13]  Barlach scholar Alfred Werner has reported the “Nazis referred to this profoundly religious work … as ‘two monkeys in nightshirts.’”[14]  Barlach, who was also a playwright, diarist, and essayist, wrote about the censorship and oppression he suffered at the hands of the Nazis, which Werner summarized:  “Far from apologetic when accused of being ‘alienated’ from the cultural traditions of his land, he points out how deeply rooted he was in everything German, without ever denying his indebtedness to the spirit and civilization of the non-German world.”[15]

 

Mary E. Murray




[1] Reproduced at the Ernst Barlach Foundation, Güstrow, website, www.barlach-stiftung.de.

[2] See Friedrich Schult, Ernst Barlach:  das plastische Werk (Hamburg:  Hauswedell & Co., 1959), 174, cat. no. 305.

[3] See Schult, Ernst Barlach:  das plastische Werk, 175, cat. no. 307.

[4] Carl D. Carls, Ernst Barlach (New York & Washington:  Frederick A. Praeger, 1969), 103.  This book was originally published in German in 1931 by Rembrandt Verlag, Berlin.

[5] According to Elizabeth Laur, of the Ernst Barlach Stiftung, Güstrow, Germany, the edition size is 36, with  eleven unnumbered sculptures cast during Barlach’s lifetime and 25 unnumbered casts made posthumously.

[6] Carls, Ernst Barlach, 103.  The Gospel of John 20:24-29 relates the story of Thomas, the twin, who had not been present when the resurrected Jesus first re-appeared to his disciples.  Upon hearing of this reunion, the skeptical Thomas stated he would not believe unless “I see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into his side.”  John then reports that Jesus reappeared in another week’s time and instructed Thomas to do just that, to which Thomas responded, “My Lord and my God!”

[7] Schult, Ernst Barlach:  das plastische Werk, 174-75, cat. nos. 305-308.

[8] Schult, Ernst Barlach:  das plastische Werk, 174, cat. no. 305.

                The story of Judas’s betrayal of Christ with a kiss in the Garden of Gethsemane can be found in Matthew 26:47-50; Mark 14:43-46; Luke 23:47-48.  Judas’s kiss is not mentioned in the Gospel of John.  The subject matter also lends itself to interpretation of two figures embracing.

                In keeping with Christian themes, the Das Wiedersehen figures also suggest the parable of the Prodigal Son’s Return, described in Luke 15:11-32, which tells of the younger of two sons who “gathered up all his wealth, and took his journey into a far country; and there he squandered his fortune in loose living.”  When he was reduced to “feeding swine,” he humbled himself, he returned to his father, who rejoiced.

[9] Wolfe Stubbe and Armgard Hardt, Works by Ernst Barlach (Washington, D.C.:  Smithsonian Institution, 1962), cat. no. 21.

[10] Alfred Werner, Ernst Barlach (New York:  McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1966), 34.

[11] Dagmar Grimm, “Ernst Barlach,” in Degenerate Art:  The Fate of the Avant-Garde in Nazi Germany (Los Angeles:  Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1991), 197.

[12] Grimm, “Ernst Barlach,” in Degenerate Art:  The Fate of the Avant-Garde in Nazi Germany, 197.

[13] Mario-Andreas von Lüttichau, “Entartete Kunst, Munich 1937:  A Reconstruction,” in Degenerate Art:  The Fate of the Avant-Garde in Nazi Germany, 55.

[14] Werner, Ernst Barlach, 34.

[15] Werner, Ernst Barlach, 59.

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