Myth and Modernity: Barlach's Drawings on the Nibelungen
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.