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Making Peace



Inner Peace
Ernst Barlach<br /> German, 1870–1938<br /> <em>The Fighter of the Spirit</em>, 1928<br /> Bronze<br /> Minneapolis Institute of Arts<br /> The John R. Van Derlip Fund
  Ernst Barlach
German, 1870–1938
The Fighter of the Spirit, 1928
Bronze
Minneapolis Institute of Arts
The John R. Van Derlip Fund

 

Look closely at this statue. What about it might make someone so angry, he would want to cut it apart and melt it down?

Called The Fighter of the Spirit, the sculpture was made by Ernst Barlach, one of the most important German sculptors after World War I. He created it in 1928 for the university church in Kiel to honor students killed during WWI. Though he initially supported Germany's role in the war, the terrible bloodshed and suffering he witnessed turned him into a pacifist?a term for one who seeks peace.

This war memorial emphasizes the dignity, suffering, and spiritual power of individuals who thought for themselves. That made the Nazis, who took over Germany in 1933, angry. The Nazis realized that some art was so powerful, it could change the way that people think about war. And they wanted every German to be devoted to the Third Reich and to help carry out their plans to invade and conquer other countries.

So they decided to destroy this statue. You can see the saw-tooth marks midway on the body where the angel was cut in two. However, instead of melting it down as ordered, someone hid the pieces in a local museum, from which Barlach's assistant bought it. He sold it to a university student, who concealed it until the war ended. After World War II, Barlach's admirers cast new versions of the statue in bronze from the pieces. The sculpture that now stands outside of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts is the only known full-sized copy.

Barlach believed that much suffering is caused by human greed, ambitions, and self-deception. Some think this statue is a metaphor for justice; the lion symbolizes strength, and the angel protects the innocent.

This statue has become a symbol of the power of peace over injustice and war.


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1. At first, Barlach was an enthusiastic supporter of Germany's role in World War I, as visible in this early sculpture, The Avenger. Ernst Barlach, The Avenger, modeled 1914, cast 1923, bronze, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, gift of the P. D. McMillan Land Company
2. The face of Barlach's figure contributes to the sculpture's message of peace.
3. Käthe Kollwitz, a German printmaker and pacifist, was a firm believer in the resilience of the human spirit. She made many woodcuts, lithographs, and other prints that show the inner strength of women, especially mothers, during World War I and II. Käthe Kollwitz, Battlefield, plate 6 from the Peasant's War cycle, 1907 (1921 edition), etching and soft-ground etching, with half-tone screen, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, The Ethel Morrison Van Derlip Fund

 

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November 2011