Ernst Barlach (1870-1938) was regarded as a well-known German expressionist sculptor, printmaker and writer. Mainly with his wooden sculptures and bronzes he established an international reputation.
He was born on January 2, 1870 as the first son of the physician Georg Gottlieb Barlach and his wife Johanna Louise. He had three younger brothers. In his early childhood, which he spent in Ratzeburg, his parents discovered his talent for painting. From 1888 to 1891 he studied art at the Hamburg School of Applied Arts. Then he went to Dresden, where he studied at the Academy of Arts until 1895.
He finished his higher education in Dresden by creating the sculpture “Die Krautpflückerin” (“The Herb Plucker”).
Then he left Germany and went to Paris, where he stayed for the next two years and where he intensified his work as an author. Since 1897 he worked as a freelance artist and moved back to his birthplace Wedel in 1901. He spent the next four years teaching at a school at the Westerwald. His travelling to Russia was supposed to change his statues emphatically. He was well impressed by the Russian lifestyle and the Russian folk art.
Both influenced his work. His private life was governed by a custody battle. In 1906 he become father of a small boy. During this time he exhibited at the exhibitions of the Berlin Secession and lived in Güstrow, a small town in Mecklenburg-West Pomerania. Many of his main artwork was made by him at this small town.
In 1915 Barlach was supposed to take part in war. Back home he transformed his impressions into figures; even the human and his different ways of living were still a theme of his art work.
Besides his statues, he rejects a diverse repertoire. At the beginning of the war Barlach was captured by national enthusiasm; very soon his enthusiasm turned to a shock. His statues were banned in 1937 by the National Socialists as "degenerate" and confiscated. Although radically isolated from his audience, he was highly regarded in professional circles. He died in 1938. Some of his works were posthumously presented in the documenta I (1955) and documenta III (1964) in Kassel.
“The Singing Man” (1928) as well as “The Flute Player” (1936) belong to his most famous sculptures.