Gerhard Marcks

(Mostly about art. Also: penis alert (below the fold)!)

Recently in my mail, a postcard from Christopher Walker showing the bronze sculpture Freunde (Friends) by Gerhard Marcks, from the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston:


This came to me openly in the US mail, without any apparent problem, despite the casual display of penises (and the suggestion that the two slim young men might be, well, more than just friends). I suppose that the Fine Art Exemption to the No Genital Nudity rule applies here; after all, the work comes from a highly respected art museum, and anyway it’s in bronze, much less insistently corporeal than, say, a photograph would be (and, besides, their penises are unthreateningly small).

Still, I’m never quite sure when the Fine Art Exemption (especially in bronze) applies, as I’ve noted on many occasions on this blog.

Marcks sculpted other pairs of nude young men in casual intimacy, as in Zwei Freunde (Two Friends) in the Sculpture Garden of the Mannheim Kunsthalle:


It turns out that Marcks did an enormous number of bronze nudes — of men and of women, singly and in couples.

He also sculpted animals, notably in the delightful Die Vier Bremer Musikanten (The Four Town Musicians of Bremen) from 1951:


One installation of this statue (#3) is a prominent feature of the Bremen Town Hall. At least one more is in the Lynden Sculpture Garden near Milwaukee WI.

Digression on the Town Musicians. From Wikipedia:

The Town Musicians of Bremen (German: Die Bremer Stadtmusikanten) is a folktale recorded by the Brothers Grimm.

In the story a donkey, a dog, a cat, and a rooster (or hen), all past their prime years in life and usefulness on their respective farms, were soon to be discarded or [were] mistreated by their masters. One by one they leave their homes and set out together. They decide to go to [the port city of] Bremen, known for its freedom, to live without owners and become musicians there.

Complications ensue. The animals never reach Bremen, but they end up spending a happy life together in a cottage on their way there.

Look at the donkey’s forelegs in #3. From Wikipedia again:

Note the front hooves that have become shiny. Touching the front hooves is said to make wishes come true.

Gerhard Marcks the man. A complex life story. Highlights from Wikipedia:

Gerhard Marcks (February 18, 1889 – November 13, 1981) was a German artist, known primarily as a sculptor, but … also known for his drawings, woodcuts, lithographs and ceramics.

… In 1919, when [Walter] Gropius founded the Bauhaus, Marcks was one of the first three faculty members to be hired, along with [Andreas] Feininger and Johannes Itten.

… [In 1933 Marcks] was fired [from the School of Applied Arts] because his work was deemed unsuitable by the Nazis, with the result that several works were in the infamous exhibition of “degenerate art” in Munich in 1937, along with that of other Bauhaus artists

Marcks endured the Nazi years and then had a substantial postwar career (and lived to the age of 92).

Art sites tell the same story, with plenty of details about Marcks’s professional life. But nothing at all personal — which helps to make works like #1 and #2 inscrutable.

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