Gerhard Marcks

Gerhard Marcks was born in Berlin in 1889. His life as a sculptor began in 1907 with an apprenticeship with Richard Sheibe. His achievements as an artist led to a teaching position at the Bauhaus school in Weimar from 1919-1925 and the Giebichenstein School in Halle from 1925-1933. While teaching at the Bauhaus, he met Marguerite Wildenhain and became her mentor and friend. During the rise of the Nazi government in the 1930s, which resulted in the harassment of many German artists, Marcks' works were judged unacceptable to officials. Marcks remained in Germany despite the harassment which included dismissal from his teaching position and confiscation of 24 of his sculptures in 1937. Most of his life's work was destroyed when his Berlin studio was bombed in 1943 and works he had hidden were plundered and mutilated. Following the war, Marcks taught four years in Hamburg and then moved to Cologne where he worked as a freelance sculptor. He was commissioned to create a number of memorials for soldiers and civilians who died during the war and his public works can be found in cities throughout Germany, including Cologne, Hamburg, Mannheim and Frankfurt. While principally known for his many sculptures, his works also include a large number of woodcuts, drawings and lithographs.

Marcks received countless honors for his work. He was awarded the Goethe Medal in 1949, and in 1952 he was elected Knight of the Order Pour le Merite. Three years later he was awarded a Prize of the City of Berlin, and in 1959 received the Grand Cross of the Order of Merit from the Federal Republic of Germany. Late in life he was inducted as a foreign honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. A postage stamp was issued by the German government to commemorate the centenary of his birth in 1989. Luther College also commemorated the centenary with a yearlong celebration including special exhibits, a catalog, and distinguished lecture.

Marcks was married to Maria (Schmidtlein) and the father of six children. He died in 1981 at the age of ninety-two. Permanent records of his works and a collection of his art are maintained at the Gerhard Marcks Haus in Bremen.

The Luther College Fine Arts Collection may be the largest repository of Gerhard Marcks works in the United States. It contains 68 drawings, 65 prints, and 9 bronze sculptures, most of which were donated to Luther College by his former student, Marguerite Wildenhain. Jutta Fischer (Herrmann) Anderson donated a portfolio of ten woodcuts by Marcks, printed in 1948, which illustrate the myth of Orpheus. Additional works, such as cookie molds and exhibit posters, were donated by others to supplement the collection. Of particular note is the monumental bronze statue of Oedipus and Antigone located on the southeast corner of the Center for Faith and Life. Created in 1960, the Luther statue is one of six castings of this sculpture. Only two are located in the United States. The work was given to Luther College by Wilfred and Ruth Jensen Bunge and formally received at a senior honors day convocation May 10, 2000. The Luther College Archives contains a large Marcks archival collection while Preus Library holds many exhibit catalogs and books illustrated by and about Marcks.

Source of Biography
Gerhard Marcks – a Retrospective Exhibition Organized by the UCLA Art Galleries with the Participation of Portland Art Museum (and others), Intro. Werner Haftmann, Eugene N. Anderson, Los Angeles: University of California, 1969;
Werner, Alfred, "Gerhard Marcks: The Form of Nature," American Artist, 35 (Dec. 1971). 32-37,71;
Busch Günter, Gerhard Marcks: Das Plastische Werk, Frankfurt am Main, Propyläen, 1977;
Marcks, Gerhard, Das Druckgraphische Werk / beargbeitet von Kurt Lammek; Herausgegeben von der Gerhard Marcks-Stiftung Bremen, Stuttgart, Dr. Ernst Hauswedell & Co., 1990.