‘A VITALISING IMPULSE’ – SCULPTORS BEHIND THE WIRE ERNST M. BLENSDORF, SIEGFRIED CHAROUX, GEORG EHRLICH AND PAUL HAMANN SARAH MACDOUGALL EXTRACT FROM This is the full, original essay. DATE 2010. SOURCE This paper was delivered at the conference, Creativity Behind Barbed Wire (26 March –28 March 2010), McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, University of Cambridge, Organisers: Dr Gilly Carr and Dr Harold Mytum.
‘A Vitalising Impulse’ – Sculptors behind the wire: Ernst M. Blensdorf, Siegfried Charoux, Georg Ehrlich and Paul Hamann
In June 1940,1 waiting to make the sea crossing from Norway to Scotland, as he fled the Nazis for the second time, the German sculptor Ernst Müller-Blensdorf used a penknife to carve an imaginary female nude named Lily Klotzelmeyer from Norwegian birch.2 The word ‘klotz’ translates as ‘block’ or ‘lump’, and is perhaps a humorous play on words regarding the subject’s origins, as well as an allusion to the transformative skill of the sculptor, which was to be so much in evidence during internment. When Blensdorf (as he later preferred to be known)3 arrived at Hutchinson camp on the Isle of Man accompanied by Merz-founder Kurt Schwitters,4 fellow internee Klaus E Hinrichsen – the art historian who curated the internal camp exhibitions – noted how both artists were already shaping branches into works of art with their hands: Schwitters an abstract work, Blensdorf a female figure. ‘A vitalising impulse’ is how Blensdorf summed up his ideas about rhythm in sculptural composition and this artistic compulsion, as well as a readiness to adapt to circumstances and materials, typical of all émigré artists, was to characterize communal sculptural practice ‘behind the wire’. This paper examines the experience and legacy of internment on the work of two German figurative sculptors: Ernst Müller Blensdorf (1896–1976) and Paul Hamann (1891–1973), and two Austrians: Siegfried Charoux (1896–1967) and Georg Ehrlich (1897–1966), all interned together as ‘enemy aliens’ at Hutchinson Camp, Isle of Man in 1940. Concentrating on Blensdorf, the most prolific sculptor-internee, I will examine their practice, teaching and exhibition history at Hutchinson, touching on the impact of the émigré network on their pre- and post-internment careers.
As Jutta Vinzent has documented in Art and Migration, between 1933–45 over 300 painters, sculptors and graphic artists emigrated to Britain, as a result of religious, political or cultural persecution during the Nazi regime. 5 For all four sculptors, these categories overlapped: Georg Ehrlich, his wife Bettina (1903–85, later an author and illustrator of children’s books),6 Paul Hamann’s artist-wife Hilde (1898–1987), and
Siegfried Charoux’s wife, Margaret, were Jewish; and Hamann was part-Jewish. Charoux was also a political émigré: active in his early years as a left-wing political cartoonist and briefly a Communist, 7 he had refused a government commission after the right-wing Chancellor Dollfuss,8 assumed power in Austria in March 1933. 9 Afterwards his work was boycotted10 and Charoux left for London in 1935.11 Georg Ehrlich arrived in 1937, Bettina followed after the Anschluss in 1938.12 The Hamanns arrived in 1937,13 after four years in Paris, following the Nazi confiscation of their property in the German artists’ colony of Worpswede.14 All had suffered artistic persecution: Charoux’s commissioned monument to the German-Jewish writer Lessing in Vienna’s Judenplatz was removed in 1938 and subsequently melted down, Ehrlich’s work was confiscated from galleries in Mannheim and Nuremberg,15 and following their emigration, the Hamanns’ early work in Berlin and Hamburg (including Paul Hamann’s new-process life-masks of German, Swiss and British clients, and a number of monumental sculptures) were destroyed. Paul Hamman’s artistic reputation never fully recovered, and Hilde Hamman’s was effectively ruined.
Blensdorf, though neither Jewish nor a member of a political party, was known as a committed pacifist and his First World War memorials, monumental works in stone or cast metal, far from glorifying war, instead depicted ‘grieving mothers and children’. 16 As a result of this, the publicity surrounding his planned monument to the Nobel Peaceprize winning Norwegian statesman Fridtjof Nansen, 17 and his own writings on the artist’s right to freedom of expression, Blensdorf received no further commissions18 and was denounced as ‘degenerate’. His Dusseldorf and Bonn studios were wrecked, he lost his teaching post at Barmen (now Wuppertal), and his war memorials were systematically destroyed.19 As with the Hamanns, this almost succeeded in permanently eclipsing Blensdorf’s reputation in his native country.20 Blensdorf left for Oslo in 1933, working for the next seven years on the Nansen project, 21 while earning his living producing ceramics.22 After the Nazi invasion of Norway in April 1940, Blensdorf and his three young children, despite receiving naturalisation papers, were forced to flee for a second time. He joined Schwitters, the King of Norway and his entourage, on the final ship – ironically named ‘the Fridtjof Nansen’ – when it left Norway in June.23
In England, all four sculptors either met or exhibited together through the pre-internment émigré network of cultural organisations, including the Freier Deutscher Kulturbund or Free German League of Culture (FGLC), the Artists’ International Association (AIA), formed in 1933, and the newly-formed Artists’ Refugee Committee. 24 Despite his Austrian birth, Ehrlich, who already had an international reputation, 25 was included in the New Burlington Galleries’ 1938 Exhibition of Twentieth Century German Art, a riposte to the famous Nazi Degnerate Art show, where he exhibited alongside the German-born, Hamann, a founder member of the FGLC. All three, plus Blensdorf, were among the 100+ members of the FGLC’s fine arts section, 26 co-chaired by Hamann and Fred Uhlman, at whose Hampstead house it first convened. Ehrlich was also President of the Fine Arts section 27 of the Austrian Centre (AC), known as ‘the Association of Austrian Painters, Sculptors and Architects’ and founded by Siegfried Charoux and Oskar Kokoschka among others,28 as one of the cultural associations of the Free Austria Movement (FAM).29 Though swept up in the wave of mass internment of all German and Austrian refugees (aged between 16 and 60), which began in late June 1940, 30 all four would briefly help to recreate this culturally collaborative atmosphere at the famous artist’s café, Hutchinson camp, Douglas, the Isle of Man. All four were certainly there by August 1940,31 and put their names to the famous letter, planned, drafted and penned, after much discussion in the artist’s café in the laundry room of House 15, and published in the New Statesman32 on the 28th, protesting that ‘Visual Art cannot lived behind Barbed Wire’ and appealing for release. 33 However, a loose undated sheet among Blensdorf’s private papers, listing eleven prominent figures in the arts, presumably predates the published letter. 34 It suggests that early drafts were to be sent additionally to: Sir Muirhead Bone of the AIA; the President of the Royal Academy; and Sir Kenneth Clark at the National Gallery. At the bottom of the page – presumably in Blensdorf’s hand – is a list of 16 suggested signatories. Together with Hamann, Ehrlich, Charoux and Blensdorf, are some of the best-known artists in the camp including Erich Kahn, Herman Fechenbach, Fred Uhlman, Hellmuth Weissenborn, E. E. Stern (known as ‘Este’), and Kurt Schwitters together with his son Ernst, as well as the lesser-known
Arthur Segal, Fritz Kraemer, Carl Felkel, Hermann Roessler and Fred Solomonski.35 However, in the final version Segal and Roessler’s names are omitted, suggesting that they have already been released.
The draft to Sir Kenneth Clark, in which the artists appealed to him to exert his influence to ‘obtain the inclusion of artists among the categories of internees eligible for release’, also survives in the Tate archives, stamped more than two weeks earlier 36 by the Headquarters internment camps, Douglas.37 This letter undoubtedly raised awareness of the artist-internees plight and Charoux was probably released soon afterwards; Hinrichsen suggested that Charoux ‘left the camp very early because he had very good connections somewhere’, 38 and this would seem to be supported by the lack of evidence of his participation in camp activities. 39 Thus the New Statesman letter was to be the only internment project on which all four sculptors collaborated, 40 though all sat to Schwitters for their portraits: in some cases more than once. Ostensibly, sculptural practice was one of the most difficult to continue ‘behind the wire’. However, the sculptors showed the same resourcefulness as the painters, adapting materials wherever possible. They dug up clay on their walks (cleaning it afterwards in their studios to separate out the grit, stones, and sand); though not suitable for firing, it was sufficient for modelling and plaster for casting was ‘acquired’ from a local builder. Ehrlich and Hamann (who shared his with Fred Uhlman and tried to teach him sculpture) both had studios on the boundary of the camp, where Hamann taught modelling and Ehrlich plaster-casting to fellow internees. They included 19-year-old German artist-to-be Peter Fleischmann, later known as Peter Midgley (1921–91), who also attended lifeclasses given by Schwitters. This unique and privileged art-education was so complete that Midgley described everything he was subsequently taught at art-school, as ‘just a recap’.41 Midgley was not attracted to either Ehrlich or Hamann’s ‘academic’42 style, but he learned a great deal from them both technically, including – probably in Ehrlich’s casting studio – the use of brass shim (wafer-thin layers of brass sheeting employed in a technical
process to create a wall of separation between the two halves of a mould). Hamann, never without his trademark cigar, was a former pupil of Rodin’s and, in addition to the lifemasks, his former work (like most of the other sculptors) had included monumental works, as well as tomb sculpture. With his artist wife, Hilde, Hamann had already established a Hampstead studio and art school, where he held life-classes for many years after internment. His preferred subject was the female nude and he taught Midgley how to model a clay figure, keeping it wet with towels between sessions to prevent drying out. Apparently little finished internment sculpture survives by either teacher, but Ehrlich’s 43 sensitively modelled classical head of the German Jewish art historian Paul Jacobsthal (1880–1957), a scholar of Greek vase painting and Celtic Art, who played a significant role in the camp university, probably had its origins in internment. Although the bronze casting could not have taken place inside the camp, the piece may have been cast from an earlier clay model produced there. A photograph also survives of a head of the fellowinternee pianist Maryan Rawicz (part of a celebrated Viennese piano duet with Walter Landauer, they were both arrested and interned while on a British tour), dated 1940 and attributed to Hamann.
Blensdorf was by far the most prolific of the sculptor internees. Possibly his experience as an internee in South Africa during the First World War made him especially resourceful, and he achieved, by any standards, an astonishing outpouring of work in Hutchinson, numbering between 20 and 40 works in a ten-month period, which Hinrichsen described as ‘strongly erotic, executed with great skill and in expressionist style’. Although originally from an area of Northern Germany famed for its fine woodcarving tradition, Blensdorf had first begun carving in South Africa. Back in Germany in the 1920s, impatient of art-schooling theorising, he had abandoned his Wuppertal training for an apprenticeship to a master-joiner specialising in carved-wood objects and in the process, he became a superb artist-craftsman. Physically, according to Hinrichsen, Blensdorf resembled ‘a Gothic church [or] one of the Gothic saints’; but in addition to his great physical strength and ‘immense hands, he also had the necessary skill and discipline required for carving. Peter Midgley’s first sight of Blensdorf was
slightly alarming as he watched this impressive 6-foot+ figure removing the metal strips from one of the beds to sharpen into homemade knives, setting aside the wooden parts for carving.44
Like Hamann, Blensdorf favoured the female nude but his women, often pregnant or in young motherhood are also potent symbols of fertility and re-generation – a singularly optimistic theme for an internee and double-exile. 45 Following the lead of the engraver Hellmuth Weissenborn, who first scratched still-life motifs with a razor blade into the oppressively dark boarding house windows (which had been painted blue against air raids), Blensdorf engraved his own windows with erotic nymphs. He constantly reworked the same figures, either from memory or more likely from the photographs of his work that he had carried with him in an old music case.46 In style, subject matter and medium, his work remained remarkably consistent both during and after internment. 47 Among Blensdorf’s internment carvings are a series of mahogany panels, famously ‘canabalised’ from a collapsed piano. In his unpublished autobiographical novel, “A German for 10 Weeks”, Hinrichsen recalled how the pianist Rawicz (was invited to give a camp concert and tested each of the eleven boarding-house pianos in turn. When he reached the seventh:
Under the impact of his powerful hands the whole piano collapsed. Like an elephant hit by a bullet it slowly sank into itself until only a heap of keyboards, planks, coasters and tangled wire remained on the floor. Within seconds the Blensdorf, the sculptor with the huge hands, took the mahogany side to be engraved as reliefs, the Technical School carried away every bit of wire to make illicit electric fires […], and Mr Neunzer, the animal trapper, took all the white ivories to carve them into much needed dentures. 48
The results included two fine Blensdorf reliefs.
Necessarily, however, not all the sculptors’ work was three-dimensional. Ehrlich and Blensdorf were both excellent draughtsman; the latter executed numerous sketches, some on the only material to hand – the reverse of wallpaper and government-issue toilet paper: all with strong outlines and striking forms including a series of pregnant nudes and the ubiquitous Manx seagulls. Blensdorf’s tender sketches and small clay sculptures of families and children evoke the traumatic experience of exile.
In a 1940 Christmas card, Blensdorf projected an image of mother and child above the island’s sweeping Douglas Bay with its easily identifiable harbour of refuge. However, the mother’s protective embrace suggests suffering rather than serenity, recalling Blensdorf’s intention to highlight grief rather than triumph in his early war memorials (correspondingly, he had planned to put a mother symbolically ‘clinging to her child to protect his future from war’ at the heart of his Nansen monument).49
The main platform for all this work was the two art exhibitions staged at Hutchinson camp in September and November 1940. There is no known surviving catalogue for the first exhibition, but in his necessarily retrospective account, written some 53 years later, Hinrichsen implies that all four sculptors exhibited in the first exhibition, describing them as representing between them a variety of styles encompassing Expressionism (Blensdorf), Classicism of the Hellinistic tradition (Ehrlich), Classicism of the Maillol tradition (Hamann),50 and the Baroque (Charoux).51 However, ‘A.Z.’ reviewing the exhibition in The Camp, commented that:
The sculptors in our Camp were rather handicapped because they had only the opportunity of exhibiting photographs of their works. Mr Mueller-Bensdorf [sic] proved to be an exception by exhibiting four wooden figures and one relief – good examples of his technique – as well as photographs of his other creations. Mr. G. Ehrlich whose brilliant and masterly portrait-technique reminds one of the best Roman works of the Imperial Period, displayed some very impressive sketches besides photographs. Mr. P. Hamann of Hamburg
fame, where his statues stand in public parks etc., showed some excellent photographs – taken by himself incidentally – of his “oeuvre”. 52
However, no mention is made of Charoux, who as an artist of established reputation would surely not have been omitted had he not already left the camp. 53 The second exhibition in November 194054 was officially opened by Commander Daniel who was then conducted on a guided tour by Hinrichsen, who noted that it ‘represented a range of recent styles, most of them suppressed in Germany’, and was difficult for a British officer’ to appreciate.55 Ehrlich had been released beforehand, 56 but Hamann and Blensdorf both took part. The night before the opening, Blensdorf, had apparently ‘single-handedly carried a large plaster figure of a highly pregnant woman up the stairs and left her standing in the middle of the floor where she endangered the structure of the building’.57
Despite the fact that Hamann remained until February 1941, and Blensdorf and Hinrichsen until April 1941, there were to be no further Hutchinson art exhibitions, possibly because the internees now concentrated on contributing to The Camp magazine,58 which had been elevated to a high artistic standard by Erich Kahn’s development of an original stencil technique, which he taught to Hamann, Blensdorf and Uhlman. The Almanac 1940-41 issue,59 comprising 24 cardboard-bound pages, was intended to represent a cross-section of the ‘artistic and cultural life in Hutchinson Camp’ and was available by subscription in three different limited editions from the island Post Office. Blensdorf published a work, and Hamann a Maillolesque sketch for a standing female nude sculpture, with further sketches in the January and March 1941 issues (though by the time the last drawing was published Hamann himself had already left).60 One surviving piece of ephemera, Blensdorf’s pocketbook, issued at Hutchinson on 18th September 1940, again links many of the artist-internees and exiles. It includes the names and ex-internment addresses of among others, Charoux, Ehrlich, Hamann, Uhlman and Schwitters, signalling perhaps an unrealised plan to re-establish the émigré network
beyond internment. Despite this, the four sculptors did not apparently stay in touch, other than as occasional fellow exhibitors in the exhibitions organised throughout the rest of the war by the cultural organisations which had brought them together previously, most notably the FGLC and AIA,61 who organised an exhibition of Sculpture and Pottery in July 1941 in which all four took part. Blensdorf, newly released, showed exclusively internment work.62
Post-war the widely varying careers of these sculptors revealed a divergence commensurate with their pre-war reputations. All became British citizens, but Charoux as a Royal Academician,63 and Fellow of the Royal British Society of Sculptors,64 and Ehrlich, as an RA exhibitor, and president of the AC’s ‘Association of Austrian Painters, Sculptors and Architects’, were the most prominent. Both produced a significant amount of publicly commissioned sculpture both in England and in their native Austria. Charoux’s first major English commissions were for stone figures on new University buildings in Cambridge. Ehrlich additionally established a highly successful portrait practice, also becoming known as an animalier sculptor of great sensitivity and skill. 65
Both Charoux and Ehrlich also resumed their careers in Europe: Charoux was made an honorary professor of the Republic of Austria in 1958, and ten years later was invited to re-cast his destroyed Lessing sculpture in Vienna’s Judenplatz. 66 Ehrlich was well-known as both teacher and exhibitor, particularly in the United States, and held numerous solo exhibitions, including a retrospective in the Austrian pavilion at the 1958 Venice Biennale, an exhibition at the Akademie der Bildenden Kunste in 1962. Hamann moved his studio to St John’s Wood, 67 and continued to hold life-classes attended by many fellow internees, including Schwitters, Kahn (who met his future wife there), and Hugo Dachinger, who executed a lively sketch of Kahn in one of the classes. 68 A number of Hamann’s life-masks survive, both in the UK, in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery, and abroad, but, while remembered for his significant role in the émigré network, he is now largely forgotten as a sculptor, both here and in Germany. His final figurative sculpture is on his tomb in Highgate Cemetery.
Blensdorf moved to Somerset, where he worked as a teacher and ceramicist, as well as a sculptor.69 Although his choice of Somerset was both restorative (he met his second wife and began a second family) and practical (he found his new medium in Somerset elm), he was isolated from both the émigré network and the mainstream of British sculpture. 70 His reputation was therefore slow to establish, although he developed a number of post-war church sculptures in response to interest from George Bell, the Bishop of Chichester, who had been vocal in his opposition to internment – and the Council for the Care of Churches.71 In 1968 he was awarded an International Arts Guild Gold Medal in Belgium for his semi-abstract wood sculpture Nightclub Dancer (1962, Bruton Museum). However, it is his powerful late work, Abraham's Sacrifice (Downside School, Bruton), a monumental carving of father and child, which Blensdorf rightly considered his best work, that brings together his themes of suffering and regeneration. Around its base is carved the inscription ‘Man will be spared great sorrow by faith in the strength of the good’, and he intended it to express the same appeal for world peace as his unrealised international Nansen monument. His Last Work, carved from wood that had fallen victim to Dutch Elm Disease, was included in the 2008 Blensdorf retrospective held at Kings School, Bruton, Somerset, where many years earlier he had established the arts department. 72
© Sarah MacDougall, April 2010 Extract from: This is the full, original essay Date: 2010 Source: This paper was delivered at the conference, Creativity Behind Barbed Wire (26 March –28 March 2010), McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, University of Cambridge, Organisers: Dr Gilly Carr and Dr Harold Mytum
Papers in the Blensdorf Family Archive [BFA] show that he left Norway on 7 June 1940. Barbara Saunders et al, Ernst Blensdorf: A Retrospective Exhibition (Somerset: Bruton Museum, 2009), p. 28. 3 He was born Ernst Müller but agreed to add the name ‘Blensdorf’ to his own when he married his first wife, Ilse Blensdorf in 1924 (as there were no male heirs in her family to continue the name). His internment work is usually signed with the monogram ‘EMB’. Later in England, possibly because of prejudice or simply for practical reasons, he dropped the ‘Müller’ and became known simply as ‘Blensdorf’. 2
According to Cian Quayle, ‘After their arrival at Edinburgh aboard the Fridtjof Nansen on June 18th 1940, Schwitters and his son Ernst were moved between a succession of internment camps: Midlothian, Edinburgh, York and Manchester [… ] at Warth Mills [sic] near Bury […] in what had been a former cotton mill hundreds of men were herded together to sleep on the floor with meagre rations and intolerable sanitary conditions./ After being despatched [sic] by ferry from the Pier Head in Liverpool[,] Schwitters was eventually interned at the Hutchinson Camp in Douglas in the Isle of Man on July 17th 1941.’ Cian Quayle, ‘Kurt Schwitters’ Aesthetics of Resistance: Internment in the Isle of Man: Manx-Merz”, p. 2, paper given at Tate Britain, 11 July 2004, as part of the conference ‘Kurt Schwitters in England’. 5 Jutta Vinzent, ‘The Political, Social and Cultural Patterns of Migration’, in eds., Powell, Jennifer and Vinzent, Jutta Art and Migration (Huminitas Subsidia Series, Number 2), Birmingham: George Bell Institute, 2005), p. 7. 6 See http://www.lib.usm.edu/~degrum/html/research/findaids/ehrlich.htm. The De Grummond collection: McCain Library and Archives, University Libraries, University of Southern Mississippi, Bettina Ehrlich papers, Collection no. DG1094, Collection dates, 1954-70, Collection Volume: 1 item (1 box). Material received from Jean Poindexter Colby in 1970. Bettina Bauer was born in Vienna in 1903, and reputedly began drawing and writing at the age of five. She studied at the School of Applied Arts in Vienna from 1920-23, before receiving two years graphic training in Berlin. She established herself as a freelance artist, painter, lithographer, and later textile painter, and exhibited in Berlin and Paris, receiving a silver medal for hand-painted silks at the International Exhibition of Arts and Industries in Paris in 1937. She married Georg Ehrlich in 1930. In London in the early 1940s she wrote and illustrated her first children’s book, Poo-Tsee, the Water Tortoise; using her first name ‘Bettina’ as her pen name. She wrote and illustrated more than 20 books for children. Her illustrations were based on carefully observed studies, often from nature, and many of her stories came from her travels in Europe and the United States. She experimented with various techniques and media including lithography, etching, oils, watercolours, woodcuts and linocuts. She exhibited alongside her husband in the Artists Aid Jewry Exhibition at Whitechapel Art Gallery in 1943. In addition to her own work, Bettina also helped Ehrlich with his sculpture by procuring suitable clay or keeping the clay model wet with cloths and provided secretarial support when he wrote his memoirs. She died in 1985 and was originally buried in Willesden Jewish cemetery next to her sister; later she was reburied with Georg Ehrlich, who has an honorary grave in the Central Cemetery of Vienna. Portraits of Bettina and her older sister, Mira, as children by Max Kurzweil are in the Austrian Gallery in the Upper Belvedere. (Maria Altmann, the daughter of Adele Bloch-Bauer's sister, Marie-Therese (Thedy) was the restitution claimant of six major Klimt paintings from the same gallery. Bettina was Adele Bloch-Bauer’s niece on her father’s side: Eugene Bauer (1869-1915) was Adele’s brother.) 7 According to Margaret Garlake, in later life Charoux referred to himself as an anarchist (Margaret Garlake, “A Minor Language? Three Émigré Sculptors and their Strategies of Assimilation”, in Malet and Behr, Arts in Exile, p. 174). 8 Engelbert Dollfuss (1892 –1934) was Chancellor of Austria from 1932 and right-wing dictator of Austria from 1933 until he was assassinated by Nazi agents in 1934. Garlake also maintains that Charoux ‘had engaged closely with the heyday of ‘Red Vienna’ (p. 170). 9 Charoux apparently rejected a commission for a memorial to policemen killed in a fight against workers defending the constitution of Austria (see Siegfried Charoux, unpublished autobiographical notes, Kenneth Clark papers, 8818.104.22.1686, n.d., TGA). 10 His monumental commissions included the frieze of workers at Zürcher-Hof, Vienna (1930). 11 According to one account, Charoux’s ‘voluntary exile to England in the thirties became a conversion. When he re-visited Vienna after the war, he felt homesick for London and its social tolerance. Yet his London home, with its piano, indoor plants, over-flowing bookshelves and rich compost of his own and other artist’s work, always exhaled a Continental atmosphere’. ‘D. A. “Mr Siegfried Charoux, 3. V. 67”, unnamed paper, in NAL Siegfried Charoux file. 12 Vinzent, ibid., p. 16. Ehrlich arrived in 1937, after his sister-in-law, Mira Gutmann, who was already resident helped the Ehrlichs obtain residence permits. Ehrlich’s own permit came through in March 1938, and his wife, Bettina, followed on that June (See Lord Croft, ‘Georg Ehrlich – An Appreciation’, unpaginated). 13 Hamann had also had ‘several public monuments’ exhibited in Hamburg before the Hitler regime came to power. Only one was known to have survived the war, a life-sized figure (originally one of two) in the 4
Hammer Park, Hamburg, which was apparently ‘protected by his fellow artists’, and survived until at least 1954 (Jewish Chronicle, 24 December 1954, pp. 8-9). 14 In Berlin, Paul Hamann had briefly enjoyed tremendous success after clients flocked to his studio, following his invention of a new process for life masks, involving ‘a painless composition of wax, glycerine and other substances’ (see biographical sketch by Hamann’s daughter, Yvonne Drinkwater, King’s College Cambridge). According to records at the Feuchtwanger Memorial Library, University of Southern California, the sitting lasted only 40 minutes. His clients included the Hon. Harold Nicolson, who suggested Hamann visit London, resulting in first London show of mask portraits at the Warren Gallery, Maddox Street, in 1930, for which Nicholson wrote the catalogue introduction. Hamman’s subjects included: (20) Mr Philip Morrell and (27) Herr Paul Wallraf (b. 1898) – who would later become a fellow internee at Hutchinson camp. In 1933, the Hamanns had left Berlin and moved to Paris, where for four years they lived in an artists’ colony in Cité Fleurie before again feeling ‘unsafe’ and moving to London. 15 The Stadtische Kunsthalle, Mannheim and the Stadt. Kunstsammlungen, Nuremberg, cited Vinzent, ibid., p. 15, n. 47. 16 Klaus E Hinrichsen in his unpublished autobiographical novel, ‘A German for 10 Weeks’ (private collection) understood that Blensdorf’s early works had been ‘systematically destroyed’ by the Hitler Youth who had then buried ‘the broken pieces at different locations’ (KEH, AGFTW, p. 79) – a destruction comparable to that of the war memorials of fellow German expressionist sculptor Ernst Barlach, with whom Blensdorf’s work has been compared. According to the artist’s son, Oliver Blensdorf, Anke Carsten Richter’s doctoral thesis on Blensdorf’s work reveals that the Neviges piece is known only from photographic evidence. It was carved in red granite, was 23ft high and probably destroyed in 1937. Neviges, a town of 20,000 inhabitants, is situated between Wuppertal and Essen. A second Wuppertal war memorial was carved by Blensdorf in the 1920s and apparently survives, ‘having been buried by local people to save it from destruction’ – this suggests that Hinrichsen’s version may have arisen from a misunderstanding. This second memorial ‘now stands by a track through a public woodland near Strasse Junkersbeck, in the Nachstebreck quarter of Wuppertal.’ I am extremely grateful to Oliver Blensdorf for all the above information and for the photograph of the second war memorial. 17 A hugely ambitious project combining architecture and sculpture, which occupied him for a decade. Blensdorf’s own detailed description of the projected monument is in his papers at the Hyman Kreitman Archive, Tate, TGA 873: ‘Briefly, the composition of the monument is this – the silhouette shows against the sky in a mighty architectonic wave line. At its breaking point in the centre of the whole composition – I place the figure of Nansen. On both sides of this wave and following its movement are shown symbolic figures of the great achievements of our culture. Each group represents a separate sphere of endeavour in which the leading figures are portraits of the great men whose work and fate have left their mark in history. To FN, the establishment of the “Rights of Man” has always been the fundamental condition of peace and understanding among the peoples of the earth. These rights are shown in symbolic statues following the main entrance road up to the Nansen figure. The 2nd main feature in the composition is the centre of the large circular conference hall dedicated to the interest of world co-operation; here, surrounding the wall is a series of sculptures depicting the horrors of war, while in symbolic contrast, the centre of the hall is occupied by a large group – a mother clinging to her child to protect his future from war. The roof of the hall is a huge, glazed dome, which at nightfall illumines the whole monument./ A wide spiral road surrounds the central Nansen figure and shows a sculptural series portraying our technological development. It is flanked by many buildings – Institutes devoted to cultural and technical progress. Another wide curve of parabolic shape cuts the spiral in the Nansen figure and encloses a wide area of level grass lawn with an open-air Amphitheatre for the performance of plays and for other artistic and recreational purposes at international gatherings. /The mighty architectonic wave which forms the silhouette of the monument will be visible from great distances and will impress upon all who see it the never-resting, onward-surging spirit of man which has carried and will carry the greatness of human endeavour even to the “round earth’s imagined corners”.’ 18 Blensdorf’s German commissions also included a ‘large iron-cast [sculpture] for the railway station at Duisburg [Rhinelands]’ in 1932 – probably destroyed during the war. Cited in Oliver Blensdorf, Ernst Blensdorf 1896-1976 (1996), p 28. 19 See also Barbara Saunders: ‘Until 1933, as well as teaching, Blensdorf participated in a number of exhibitions and began to establish himself as a sculptor, through privately and publicly commissioned work
ranging from architectural embellishments such as decorative reliefs and doorcases to monumental pieces such as war memorials, working in stone or cast metal.’ (p. 7). 20 However, the touring posthumous exhibition, Ernst Blensdorf 1896-1976, with a catalogue by Oliver Blensdorf, held first at St. John’s Church, Glastonbury as part of the Glastonbury Arts Festival (17 Aug-7 September 1996), also toured to five locations in Northern Germany: Stadtisches Museum, Schlewig (25 Sept-27 Oct 1996); Werkkunstschule, Flensburg (1 Nov-13 Dec 1996); Nissenhaus Museum, Husum (12 Jan-2 March 1997); Stadtisches Museum, Bad Schwartau (17 March-27 April 1997); and BKG (Bergische Kunstgenossenschaft), Wuppertal (4-25 May 1997). The German scholar, Dr Anke Carstens-Richter also completed her doctoral thesis on Blensdorf and Barlach. 21 He had gathered support from prominent supporters including Albert Einstein. Einstein’s name and address are in Blensdorf’s ‘Dorithona’ pocketbook. See fn. 87. 22 The work comprised ceramic plates, tiles and panels. 23 According to anecdotal evidence, his youngest daughter (from his first marriage), was handed off the boat by the King of Norway, and all three children from Blensdorf’s first marriage believed that they were of Norwegian descent until they were told otherwise. I am grateful to Douglas Learmond, Chairman of Bruton Museum, Somerset, for this information. 24 Set up by Roland Penrose and AIA members, with John Heartfield, Theo Balden and other Communist artists to rescue members of the Oskar Kokoschka Bund who had fled to Czechoslovakia after Hitler’s accession to power. These included the sculptor Margarete Klopfleisch, who was subsequently interned in Rushen Camp, Isle of Man. (See Klaus E Hinrichsen in ‘Visual Art Behind the Wire’, in Cesarani & Kushner, p. 189.) Despite setting up the Artists Refugee Committee, Theo Balden was himself interned, first at Huyton Transit Camp, and then deported to Canada. Ironically, the artists’ refugee committee then had to appeal on his (and others’ behalf) for his release. See Helen Roeder, secretary Artists’ Refugee Committee, to Sir Kenneth Clark, not dated, TGA, Kenneth Clark correspondence files. 25 Ehrlich had been awarded a gold medal at the Paris World Fair in 1937, and by the following year his prints were already in a number of international collections including the Albertina Museum, Vienna; the British Museum, London; the Metropolitan Museum, New York; and the Moscow Museum. He had exhibited three times at the Venice Biennale (1932, 1934 and 1936) and also been included in the exhibition Austrian Art of the Twentieth Century at the Kunsthalle, Berlin, in 1937. In 1939 Ehrlich held the first of many solo shows in London at the Matthiesen Gallery. 26 Cited Vinzent, op. cit., p. 29; see also Michael Kresja, ‘Das Archiv des Bildhausers Heinz Worner’, cited ibid., p. 18. 27 Ibid., p. 26; see also Wolfgang Muchitsch, 'The Cultural Policy of. Austrian Refugee Organisations in Great Britain', pp. 31 and 35. Their aim was to try to ‘offer its members an opportunity to break out of their isolation, encouraging discussion with colleagues and finding new points of view, which were reflected in their work. It enabled them to present their works of art to an audience and to feel the response necessary for the artist’s work.’ AC shows also included an Exhibition of Paintings, Watercolours, Drawings & Sculptures at Foyle’s Gallery, London, Sept 1945, including work by Ehrlich and Charoux alongside Kokoschka. Moreover, the AC also co-operated with FGLC, Czech Institute and AIA, including the First Group Exhibition of German, Austrian, Czechoslovakian Painters and Sculptors, organised by FGLC, at Wertheim Gallery, London, 20 June-3 July 1939, including work by Ehrlich and Charoux. 28 It was known as ‘the Association of Austrian Painters, Sculptors and Architects’. 29 By 1944 it had c. 3, 500 members. See Vinzent, ‘The Political, Social and Cultural Patterns of Migration’, in eds., Powell, Jennifer and Vinzent, Jutta Art and Migration, op. cit., p. 25. Four annual shows were organised, c.1939-44. 30 Full records are only available under certain circumstances. In an email Yvonne Cresswell, Social Curator at Manx National Heritage explains: ‘Manx National Heritage only has male registration information if they were married (information linked to the female registration card) &/or if they wrote/ drew something for a camp newspaper &/ or are a named individual in an oral history interview/ publication.’ 31 Ehrlich travelled to Hutchinson via the notorious Warth Mill transit camp with Schwitters - see Fred Uhlman, Erinnerungen eines Stuttgarter Juden, Stuttgart, 1992, p. 173, cited Vinzent, “Aesthetics of Internment Art during the Second World War”, p. 91: Appendix. Blensdorf presumably arrived at the same time.
Raymond Mortimer at the NS was one of Hamann’s former clients. See also KEH rhyme in First Draft! Hinrichsen, VABTW, 196, states that ‘It was in the Café that the letter to the New Statesman & Nation had been drafted. Apart from visual artists, architects, musicians, writers, actors, an art dealer and I, then a young art historian, were welcome.’ Hinrichsen noted how the café community, discussed ‘a diversity of ideas and problems’ – one of the most anxiously-debated was what would happen to them all if the Nazis invaded. KEH (p. 197) also pointed out that ‘Enemy Aliens could not become Official War Artists or even help with camouflage.’ 34 Ernst M Blensdorf, BFA. 35 Written as Fred Uhlman, Paul Hamann, Georg Ehrlich, S. Charoux, Prof. E. Mueller-Blensdorf, E. Kahn, H Fechenbach, F Kraemer, C Felkel, A. Segall [sic], Roessler, H Weissenborn, Salomonski [sic], E E Stern, K. Schwitters and Ernst Schwitters. 36 Stamped 10 August 1940. It suggests that yet another draft was sent to Sir Muirhead Bone at the AIA [not yet traced] and also contains a number of other names of influential people in either the arts (e. g. Herbert Read and the President of the Royal Academy), politics (Hon. Harold Nicolson), the press (e. g. Raymond Mortimer, New Statesman) or who were known to be sympathetic to the plight of the internees (e. g. Bishop Bell of Chichester), numbered from 1-11 beginning with the President of the Royal Academy and ending with Harold Nicolson but additionally, the numbers 1 & 2 have been notated by four of the names: no 1: Raymond Mortimer, New Statesman; and Sir Muirhead Bone, Grey Fleet, Ferry Hinksey, Oxford; and no 2 President of the Royal Academy; and Sir Kenneth Clark. As the NS and Kenneth Clark versions are extant it is likely that the Muirhead Bone and RA versions were penned at the same time. 37 Cordula Frowein, “Bildende Kunstler im Exil”, PhD, University of Frankfurt, 1993 p. 101, cited Vinzent, ibid., pp. 40-41. It was apparently after this that the former Norwegian Minister, Koht together with the Royal Academy and The Society of Friends, requested the release of Ernst Blensdorf 38 Hinrichsen, IWM. Sound Archive. Although Vinzent (Aesthetics of Internment, op. cit) maintains that Charoux was interned for six months and released at the end of November 1940. 39 Perhaps also because Charoux believed that ‘creative man is essentially an individual: artistic creation happens in solitude.’ See ‘Art and Humanity: the work of Siegfried Charoux’. 40 In Martin Millgate: A German for 10 Weeks (op. cit) Hinrichsen’s autobiographical narrator, Martin, describes the artist’s café through the eyes of another youthful internee, Peter Fleischmann (later known as Peter Midgley). 41 IWM Sound Archive. 42 Midgley recalled he was not ‘intrigued’ by their work and preferred the originality of Schwitters, whom he revered. 43 KEH describes ‘Georg Ehrlich, the Austrian sculptor of gentle and languid young men, very much in the Hellenistic tradition, who had achieved fame at very early age; Siegfried Charoux, also from Vienna, whose monumental baroque sculptures stood in many towns in Austria and commissioned by the Trade Union Congress, also in Britain.’ (p. 79). 44 Midgley also recalled Blensdorf ‘taking the doors out of his house and carving them’, though this may be a confusion of the Rawicz piano story. Weissenborn also recalled ‘We had a number of very good artists in the camp […] Charoux who was a sculptor from Vienna, and Paul Ehrlich who was another Viennese artist who was a sculptor. Then there was Uhlman, Hamman [sic], [and] Kahn […] cited Living with the Wire, p. 53. 45 Post-war (1954) Hamann produced and exhibited a plaster maquette of a subject which sounds typical of Blensdorf of ‘A Pregnant Woman and Child in an Air-Raid’, which he would apparently have liked to bring up to full size and place in the vestibule of a maternity home (Jewish Chronicle archives). 46 I am grateful to Oliver Blensdorf for this information. 47 Klaus E Hinrichsen, (p. 79). 48 He continued, ‘and the hammers were given to anybody who had been rejected by the Recruiting Officers who had begun to roam the camp, to be worn in their lapels, thus protecting them from further pestering’. KEH, A German for 10 Weeks, p. 62. 49 See FN 17. 50 His work was wholly figurative, and he favoured classicism in the Maillol (1861–1944) tradition, concentrating on the female nude ‘with a classical emphasis on stable forms’. 32 33
‘Georg Ehrlich’s sculptures of young Ephebes had a long classical ancestry and the Baroque was represented by Siegfried Charoux whose cellist stands outside the Festival Hall in London.’ This description may give us a clue for Charoux’s cellist was not created until 1958. He describes Blensdorf as an ‘undoubted Expressionist’. KEH also says that Henry Moore ‘was hated by both Georg Ehrlich and Paul Hamann’. [KEH, p 203]. 52 The Camp (no. 2, p. 10) issued 29 September 1940. 53 This seems to confirm this reputation, since, according to Hinrichsen, Schwitters’ reserved oil portraits for the ‘important’ internees. Peter Midgley also recalled how Schwitters painted ‘the nobility – our nobility at the camp – anyone who had a name and that includes the camp commander – Major Daniels – and anyone else who was known at the time.’ [IWM, SA]. 54 The campfather’s address to Commander Daniel, thanking him for his ‘friendly assistance’ was reproduced in The Camp (24 November 1940). As well as asking the Commander to open the second exhibition, it thanked him, on behalf of the exhibitors ‘and the entire camp’, for his ‘understanding help’ over the preceding four months. For many of the artists, it was exactly 20 weeks to the day [i. e. 5 months] since they had been been interned. This really friendly assistance,’ it was declared, ‘has made it possible that the works which you find here could come into existence. The Artist, more than anybody else, suffers under the stress and strain of adverse circumstances. He might have stupendous and even divine inspirations – but he wants an atmosphere of kindness and friendliness around him shall that mysterious transmutation materialise from thought and imagination into a work of art’. He continued, ‘Well, I hope that our artists have shown that they can work in spite of difficulties and a quite natural depression…’ The Camp (24 November 1940). 55 He continued, ‘Yet, whatever he may have felt privately, as guest of honour he looked and listened.’ Elsewhere, Hinrichsen pointed out that with all the pre-Hitler German styles of art present in the camp, ‘Thus German Art lived on in a British Internment Camp while it was suppressed and eradicated in its country of origin’, despite the fact that ‘by 1940 almost none of these artistic movements had found a response in Britain.’ 56 The Camp magazine confirms that Ehrlich was released by November 1940 before the opening of the 2nd exhibition. See also Fred Uhlman, Erinnerungen eines Stuttgarter Juden, Stuttgart, 1992, p. 173, cited Vinzent, “Aesthetics of Internment”, op. cit., p. 91: Appendix. 57 Hinrichsen, VABTW, op. cit., p. 200. 58 And the graphic artist Carl Pietzner (see KEH, VABTW, op. cit., p. 195). They all achieved what Hinrichsen described as ‘successful work’ in The Camp, though he also pointed out that ‘nobody matched Kahn’s technical skill, and no other camp paper discovered the stencil’s potential.’ 59 The Camp (issue 13/14) comprised 24 pages. According to Alan Franklin, Librarian, Manx National Heritage Library, there are two slightly different versions of this issue: one in black and white and one in colour, with differing contents and un-numbered. However, it was also possible to order hand-coloured signed copies so that more than one version of the images often exists. I am grateful to Alan Franklin for this information. 60 A letter from the writer Richard Friedenthal, dated 10 Feb 41, written shortly after his release and addressed to ‘My dear friends’ in Hutchinson Camp, was directed through Carl Felkel, a fellow member of the Artists’ Café, and is preserved among Blensdorf’s papers (BFA). At the close of the letter Friedenthal writes ‘To-morrow I will see Hamann and Weissenborn. Uhlmann and Fraenkel I met already. Rawicz is on tournee. All the most heartfelt greetings from all of them.’ 61 Midgley, see below, also recalled that Uhlman, as member of AIA, arranged exhibitions both for the free and the interned. 62 See catalogue AIA and FGLC Sculpture and Pottery, July 1941, TGA. 63 Charoux was elected ARA in 1949 and RA in 1956. In his unpublished autobiographical notes in the Clark correspondence, Tate, Siegfried Charoux wrote of himself that ‘in England under the influence of political freedom his style changes completely from his distorted Austrian to a more free and tranquil [sic] one.’ 64 Charoux was unanimously recommended to join the RBS in 1947 – a rare honour according to the Royal British Society of Sculptors archivist, Dr Emmanuel Minne – and became a Fellow from 1949-59, when he resigned his membership. I am grateful to Dr Minne for compiling this information for me. 65 Ibid., p. 171. 51
There is a small museum dedicated to his work in Langenzerdorf. Peter Midgley recalled how many ‘Hutchinsonians’ met long after internment regularly once a week in cafés. Both before and after internment they also went often to Uhlman’s house (Peter Midgley [formerly Fleischmann], IWM, Sound Archive. 68 In 1954 Hamann produced and exhibited a plaster maquette of a subject which sounds more typical of Blensdorf, which he would have liked to work up to full size and place in the vestibule of a maternity home, but the project was apparently unrealised (see Jewish Chronicle, op. cit.). 69 Charoux and Ehrlich are on opposite pages with their respective addresses in Holland Park and Hammersmith. Next to each of their names is the word ‘Billedhugger’ – Norwegian for sculptor. This suggests not only that Blensdorf had mastered Norwegian but that it had become his first language, though there are also entries in English – the common language of the camps - and in some cases, e. g. ‘maler’ meaning painter, the word is the same in both Norwegian and German. 70 Blensdorf’s Dorithona Pocket Book is one of the most informative pieces of documentary evidence, telling us who he intended to consult or contact post-internment and often tells us of his intentions too, e. g. his entry for Dartington Hall in Devonshire, written in English, reads ‘Mr. Ellerswood large estate artschool, handicraft, pottery, theater [sic], music, dance. ‘Some teachers met in camp: Sontag, painter, Dr. Berand French lang. Oppenheimer gr. Kurt Jost [sic] ballet there…’ This telling line indicates that he was seeking work and trying sensibly to tap the émigré network. In a further notebook [BFA] he has copied out a testimonial from Mrs. Helena Wright to Mrs. Dorothy Elmhirst dated 30 August 1941 recommending him for interview at Dartington. 71 Oliver Blensdorf, op. cit., p. 24. 72 Ibid. 67