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Arno Breker

(1900—1991)


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German sculptor, printmaker, and architect, born in Elberfeld, the son of a stonemason. He trained locally, then at the Academy in Düsseldorf, 1920–25. From 1927 to 1933 he lived in Paris, where he became a friend of Despiau and Maillol, then spent a year in Rome. In 1934 he settled in Berlin, where he became a professor at the Hochschule für Bildende Kunste in 1937. Breker's early work had included abstracts, but he turned to heroic figure sculpture, influenced by the antique and Renaissance art he had seen in Rome, and the gigantic musclebound warriors in which he specialized brought him enormous success in Nazi Germany (see National Socialist art). Hitler's favourite sculptor, he was provided with a castle, vast studio, and prisoner-of-war labourers, and was known as the ‘German Michelangelo’. His work included many state commissions, most of which were destroyed after the Second World War as they were considered such potent symbols of Nazism. Breker himself was reckoned fortunate to escape with no more than a caution for his involvement with Hitler, and for some time after the war he kept a low profile and was virtually forgotten to the art world. He settled in Düsseldorf in 1950 and returned to full-time work as a sculptor in 1960. Although he made some figures in his earlier idiom, his later sculptures were mainly portrait busts. To many critics, these had little more than curiosity value, but Peter Ludwig, who was one of his patrons, described Breker as ‘a great portraitist whose achievement has been buried beneath a mountain of tendentious slogans’.

From A Dictionary of Modern and Contemporary Art in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Art.


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