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Myth and Modernity
Barlach's Drawings on the Nibelungen
Peter Paret and Helga Thieme
144 pages, 38 illus., bibliog., index
ISBN 978-0-85745-346-4 $135.00/£99.00 Hb Published (April 2012)
“…an extensively researched, studious, and enlightening portrait of a keen and multifaceted human mind. Highly recommended, especially for public and college library military history and military theory shelves.” · Midwest Book Review
In interpreting its own age art often turns to the past. At the beginning of the twentieth century one of these encounters between present and past was prompted by the interest a major figure in German modernism, the sculptor Ernst Barlach, came to take in the medieval epic The Song of the Nibelungen. There exists no statement by Barlach to explain what prompted his interest and the resulting sequence of large drawings on the epic’s climactic final segment, reproduced here. In conception and execution these drawings stand out in Barlach’s graphic oeuvre, as they stand apart from the multitude of interpretations the Nibelungen inspired in art, literature, and music. This book discusses the epic and its course through German history, the artist’s biography and the course of his work, as well as the place the drawings occupy in the art, culture, and politics of Germany in the 1920s and 30s and beyond to the ideological and political crises of Central Europe before and after the First World War.
Peter Paret is Professor Emeritus in the School of Historical Studies at the Institute for Advanced Study. His most recent books are German Encounters with Modernism, 1840-1945 (Cambridge University Press 2001); An Artist against the Third Reich: Ernst Barlach, 1933-1938 (Cambridge University Press 2003); and the 2008 Lees Knowles Lectures at Cambridge University, The Cognitive Challenge of War (Princeton University Press 2009). For his essay on Marc Bloch and Clausewitz, “Two Historians on Defeat,” he was awarded the Historical Society’s 2010 Jack Miller Center Prize.
Helga Thieme is an academic staff member of the Ernst Barlach Stiftung in Güstrow, Germany—the archive, research center, and exhibition complex dedicated to the life and work of the artist. She has edited, co-edited, and contributed to a number of exhibition catalogues published by the Foundation. Her recent publications include Barlach auf der Bühn. Inszenierungen 1919-2006 (co-ed., Güstrow, 2007) and the catalogues “… das Kunstwerk dieser Erde”. Barlachs Frauenbilder (co-ed., Güstrow, 2010), and Mythos und Zukunftstraum. Texte und Bilder von Ernst Barlach” (Güstrow, 2011).
Subject: 20th Century History General Cultural Studies
List of Illustrations
Chapter 1. The Song of the Nibelungen: From Medieval Epic to Cultural Icon and Nationalist Symbol
Chapter 2. Ernst Barlach, 1870-1938: An Artist of and against his Time
Ernst Barlach: Drawings on The Song of the Nibelungen
Chapter 3. Celebration and Rejection of a Myth
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