“I never encountered Ernst Barlach with anything less than a great reverence
for his art. I visited him in 1934 because his art, which I had only become
aware of two years previously, touched me. Everything that followed was
a result of inner conviction and had nothing to do with patronage.”
Hermann F. Reemtsma, 1948
When the Hamburg-based factory owner Hermann F. Reemtsma visited Ernst Barlach in Güstrow for the first time in August 1934, he was very impressed by both his art and his character. Reemtsma spontaneously acquired the wood sculpture The Ascetic from 1925, and a short time later he commissioned Barlach to complete The Frieze of Listeners, a series of figures he had already been working on. From that time, Reemtsma was deeply committed to supporting the artist ostracized by the National Socialists. By 1938, the year of Barlach’s death, Reemtsma already owned 20 of his sculptures and about 100 drawings.
In the following years, with numerous purchases, Reemtsma continued his efforts to document the complete diversity of Barlach’s work. At the end of the 1950s he decided to transform his collection into a foundation and make it accessible to the public in a museum. In 1960, when the foundation was initiated, it encompassed approximately 50 sculptural works (including 13 works in wood) and 150 drawings.
Since the death of Hermann F. Reemtsma in 1961 and the opening of the Ernst Barlach Haus a year later, it has been possible to enlarge the collection with numerous important works. Thanks to the continued commitment of the founding family, the collection now includes about 140 artworks in wood, bronze, ceramic, porcelain, terracotta and plaster, more than 400 drawings from all of Barlach’s creative phases, almost all his graphic prints as well as important autographs, rare portfolios, first editions and archival documents.
The Ernst Barlach Haus is famous for its collection of sculptures in wood, owning almost 30 of them. This is the largest single group of wood sculptures by Ernst Barlach assembled in one museum and makes up a third of Barlach’s total works in this important medium.