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Georg Kolbe. Blue Ink Drawings
14 October, 2009 -17 January, 2010

An exhibition of works by Georg Kolbe (1877 - 1947) opened in the Court Gallery of the Winter Palace (halls 340-342). Georg Kolbe is one of the best-known German sculptors of the 20th century. There are few sculptors whose graphic works would be valued as highly as Kolbeís drawings. The master himself never showed his drawings separately from his other works; however, since 1921 they have become an integral part of all his exhibitions.

The group of drawings displayed at the exhibition belongs to the beginning of 1920s. Similar works by Kolbe performed between 1916-1917 and 1923-1924 are generally known as Blue Ink Drawings. The name to this group was given by Walter Walentiner, a famous art historian and director of the Detroit Institute of Arts, in his book. Though not all of his works of this period are performed precisely in this blue tone, but it was important for the critic to emphasise the appearance of this colour in the sculptorís graphic works.

In 1919-1920s Kolbe practically did not work as a sculptor. During this time small-size sculptures and drawings became central in his works. In this case what is meant is not work sketches that appeared from time to time in the creative working process of the sculptor, but quite large-size drawings. Kolbe preferred vellum paper without water marks, approximately 47 by 37 centimetres, of light cream or bluish tone. There was only one technique used - a steel pen and a brush. The sculptor drew with diluted Indian ink or regular ink without prior pencil sketching.

Kolbe almost always signed his drawings with a monogram and almost never dated them. That is why it is not exactly known when he began to create these drawings. Most of the researchers connect the largest part of his drawings with 1920-1921.

In most cases the theme of these drawings lies in a movement of a female model conveyed by a swift, almost intuitively caught sketch. Only a few precise lines expressed on paper convey the nature of a strained movement, a complicated and sometimes even provocative posture so laconically and expressively. The work is finished with a few brush strokes that outline shapes and bring the necessary dramatic effect and decorative elements into the composition of the drawing.

The theme that unites all the works performed by Kolbe during the period of Blue Ink Drawing is erotic origin. Almost one century later the perception of these works changed in many ways, but in 1920s such sketches were considered to be quite scandalous. Different actresses and dancers served as models for the artist. In 1920s the dancers who performed before the master were a Javanese dancer Seeti Sundari, Ďbarefootí ballet dancer - Charlotte Bara, variety dancers Vera Skoronel and Palucca, Eva Reichlin from Red Dances group and a dancer Ted Schawn. They were all very well-known in their times. However, it is very unlikely that at least one of them is depicted in the exhibited drawings, it is more likely that none of them sat nude for the artistís drawings. At any rate, not even one of the exhibited drawings can be quite confidently connected with anyone of these dancers who worked with the sculptor in 1920-1921.

Apparently some other model sat for the drawings that came to the Hermitage, the model that would satisfy aesthetic preferences of Kolbe and had good physical training, perhaps, she was also a dancer. She is free and unrestrained, without difficulty she can maintain complex postures that never repeat in the sculptorís works. Her movements are intense and complex, and yet they are natural and devoid of any exaltation. The admiration by the perfection of a female body, smoothness of her shapes and plastique of her movements is perceived in these drawings.

There are special compositions among the exhibited works. After two of them in 1921-1922 Kolbe made small sculptures - Cappriccio and Kniende (Kneeling Woman). They reproduce the drawings almost without alterations. The sculpture Cappriccio attracted a lot of attention because of extreme boldness of the modelís posture, that is why the sculptureís drawing was already published in 1920s. Kniende (Kneeling Woman) is also a well-known work, the reproduction of which was included in almost all the lifetime publications about the artist; apparently it quite soon lost its graphic original.

Two more drawings belong to sketches of nude lovers that are quite rare among sketches by Kolbe. One of them in which a couple is depicted in a posture of a struggle between a men and a woman was reproduced in the book by Walentiner. Another two drawings that are now in the Hermitage are also published in this book. If we take into account that only thirteen graphic works by the master are reproduced in the book, then it indicates a very high level of works that came to the museum collection.

Only one of the exhibited works is not connected with sketches of a nude model. It is a project of a Memorial hall that was ordered under the will of Karl August Linger, a factory owner from Dresden. Linger, an old friend of Kolbe and the first collector of his works, died in 1916. In his house in Weissen Hirsch it was planning to build a memorial. As it can be seen from Kolbeís draft it should have been a round spacious room with upper lighting. The sculptor planned to cover its walls with bronze relief, and in the middle he was planning to place a sculpture Assunta on a high pedestal. This is a big bronze statue (170 centimeters high), it is the only part of the planned ensemble that was implemented, however, later the artist was able to return to his plan and created Ring of Statues in Rothschild Park in Frankfurt am Main in 1930s.

After World War I Kolbe resumed his work as a sculptor. However, since that time in the publicís mind his graphic works have become inseparable from his other works. It is likely that the biggest part of his graphic works was acquired by one of collectors from Berlin. Unfortunately, the drawings do not have any collection marks, notes or inscriptions that could help to identify the source of their entry into the Hermitage. At any rate, during the war they were no longer in the collection of the artist. There is also no information about the works that came to the Hermitage in Georg Kolbe Museum in Berlin where the masterís archives are situated and study of his works is conducted. It is likely that now it is the most interesting and significant collection of graphic works by the master outside Germany.

The State Hermitage Publishing House has prepared a scientific illustrated catalogue for the exhibition; the author of the text is the curator of the exhibition Mikhail Dedinkin, chief assistant at the Department of Western European Art of the State Hermitage.

   


Nude I
1920-21

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Nude II
1920-21

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Nude III

1920-21
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Nude IV
1920-21

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Nude V
1920-21

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Nude VI
1920-21

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Nude X
1920-21

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Nude XI
1920-21

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Nude XII
1920-21

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Embrace I
1920-21

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Project of Karl Lingerís Memorial Hall
1920-21

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