Thursday 26 April 2018

Wilhelm Lehmbruck

Wilhelm Lembruck at the Leopold, Vienna.

Lembruck was an important innovator and pioneer of modern European sculpture. This exhibition comprised around 50 sculptures of the artist and established a dialogue between Lehmbruck's works and those of his role models and contemporaries who were relevant to his artistic and intellectual environment. Lehmbruck's works are also juxtaposed with select works by Egon Schiele in an attempt to examine formal aesthetic principles employed by the two artists.

Wilhelm Lehmbruck, Mother and Child, 1907

Wilhelm Lehmbruck, Mother and Child

Constantin Meunier, Puddler (relief of Sitting MIner with Miner's Lamp), 1905

Meunier's depictions of workers expressed the energy released by human labour as well as the experience of alienation, suppression and exploitation associated with it. Lehmbruck would have been familiar with the realistic style and the socio-critical works of the Belgian painter and sculptor.

Kaethe Kollwitz, Mother with Two Children, 1923-37,  (bronze)

Kollwitz's life and oeuvre are synonymous with pacifism and with championing the socially deprived members of society. At a time when art celebrated upper-class salon painting, heroic Historicism and the heroic death of soldiers, Kollwitz depicted suffering and overworked individuals. Her main themes were hardship, hunger, war and death. With her Expressionist sculptures dealing with issues of mourning and loss, she paved the way for social criticism in sculpture, much like Lehmbruck did. In 1936 the National Socialists banned Kollwitz from exhibiting, and her works were removed from public collections.

One more view.

Kaethe Kollwitz, The Widow, 1916

Kaethe Kollwitz, Plowmen and Woman, 1902

Wilhelm Lehmbruck, Bathseba, 1913

Wilhelm Lehmbruck, Susanna, 1913

The sensual serenity and easy elegance conveyed by Lehmbruck's early figures increasingly diminished with his experience of war and gave way to motifs of desperation and mourning.

George Minne, Kneeling Youth, 1898-1903

Wilhelm Lehmbruck, Sitting Girl, 1913-14

Egon Schiele, Girl (Female Nude with Yellow Cloth), 1913 (pencil, gouache on paper)

Wilhelm Lehmbruck, The Kneeling Woman, 1911

Wilhelm Lehmbruck, Ascending Youth, 1913-14

Carrying on from what Lehmbruck had already radically formulated in his Kneeling Woman, the work Ascending Youth is a manifestation of the artist's new notion of forms. Through the pillar-like severity and solemn overall design and its silhouette-like contours, the artist developed a new symbolism.   The head bent forward seems like a spiritual self-portrait of the artist pondering the burden of human existence and seeking to free himself from it through his quest for a new image of human beings.

Wilhelm Lehmbruck, Pensive Woman, 1913

Berlinde De Bruyckere, Pieta, 2008, (wax, wood, epoxy, metal)

Like the work of Lehmbruck, the sculptures of Berlinde De Bruyckere also address existential themes of human existence. In her quest to depict timeless human experiences, the artist dispenses with identity-evoking bodily features such as hands and heads, and draws on pictorial forms handed down from art history - in this case the motif of the Pieta. Contrary to classical Pieta depictions, De Bruyckere does not focus on Christ's body but rather on Mary's embrace symbolised by the crossed-over legs of the two huddled figures. This compassionate gesture serves to highlight the vulnerability of the human condition as the central theme of this sculpture.

Berlinde De Bruyckere, Hanne, 2003, (wax, horsehair, wood, iron, epoxy, resin)

A Berlinde De Bruyckere exhibition run alongside the Lehmbruck one at the Leopold. You can see it here .

You can see more of her work here

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