German sculptor, born at Waldheim, Saxony. He trained as a painter in Dresden, Munich, and Paris (at the Académie Julian, 1898), then took up sculpture during a stay in Rome, 1898–1901. From 1903 he lived in Berlin, but in 1909 he revisited Paris, where he met Rodin, who together with Maillol influenced him in turning exclusively to sculpture and in his choice of favourite subject—the nude. Kolbe's early work had vigour and freshness and his lithe figures were often expressive of the dance. In 1929 one such female figure was displayed in the German Pavilion, designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, at the Barcelona World Exhibition and it looked completely at home in this exquisite modern setting (by common consent one of the loveliest buildings of the 20th century). However, after the rise of the Nazis (see National Socialist art) Kolbe's work lost its individuality as he turned to evoking the popular image of the ‘master race’. His studio in Berlin is now a museum.
From A Dictionary of Modern and Contemporary Art in Oxford Reference.