The Melon Eater
1907 (probably cast in 1949)
Bronze. Height 33.7 cm. Signed on the reverse of the plinth 'E. Barlach' on the reverse and with the foundry stamp "H. NOACK BERLIN" on the rim. - With beautiful dark brown patina, golden in places.
Laur 112; Schult I 64
Private collection Hamburg
Berlin 1907 (Sezession), no. 441 ("Melonenesser"); Herford 1910 (Gewerbe- und Industrieausstellung); Berlin/Düsseldorf 1930 (Galerie Flechtheim), no. 2 ("Der Melonenschneider"); Berlin 1948 (Galerie Franz), cat. p. 22 no. 4; Düsseldorf 1951 (Galerie Alex Vömel), cat. No. 6; Berlin 1951/52 (Deutsche Akademie der Künste), cat. p. 121, no. 7 with illus.; Turin 1954 (Espressionismo e Arte Tedesca), cat. No. 284; Lincoln/Nebraska 1955 (University of Nebraska Art Galleries), no. 4 ("The Melon Cutter"); Bremen 1959 (Kunsthalle), cat. No. 5; Berlin 1981 (Galerie Nierendorf), Ernst Barlach, Einundfünfzig Bronzen, Cat. No. 4 with illus. ("The Melon Cutter"); Antwerp 1994/1995, (Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten Antwerpen), Ernst Barlach, cat. No. 046 with illus.
Cf. Ernst Barlach. Sculptures, Hand Drawings and Autographs, exhib. Cat. Haus Hamburg, Hermann F. Reemtsma Foundation 1977, no. 11a; Museum Ludwig Köln. Paintings and Sculptures, Cologne 1986, p. 17; Anita Beloubek-Hammer, Ernst Barlach. Plastische Meisterwerke, Leipzig 1996, p. 24f.; Barlach and Russia. Ernst Barlach's Journey to Russia in the Summer of 1906, exhib. Cat. Ernst Barlach-Gesellschaft Hamburg 2002, p. 345
The rare bronze sculpture "The Melon Eater" (also known as "The Melon Slicer" or "The Melon Peeler") by Ernst Barlach is one of the works that the sculptor created immediately after his trip to Russia and the impressions he gained there. In August 1906, at a time of artistic uncertainty and a lack of success, he and his brother Nikolaus set off for Kharkov in southern Russia via Warsaw. After just a few weeks, Barlach came to the realization that observing and drawing Russian peasants and beggars ideally matched the content and form of his idea of art. Only now did he realize that "participation in people", as he himself wrote, was to become his major theme: "I must be able to suffer with them", he wrote to his publisher friend Reinhard Piper, "and my artistic mother tongue is the human figure or the milieu in which people live, suffer, rejoice, feel and think" (quoted from: Die Ernst Barlach-Museen, Leipzig 1998, p. 46).
The impressions of this journey are directly expressed in works such as "The Beggar Woman", "The Sitting Woman" and "Melon Eater" from 1907. In contrast to the previous works, such as the naturalistically conceived "Krautpflückerin" (1894), the sculptural form was now bundled and concentrated and the robed figure became an expression of Barlach's inner feelings. In the "Melon Eater", the elementary activity is captured in the sculptural formula of an ascending diagonal. Almost all the lines - the upper body, the right leg and the seams of the robe - strive in this direction, lending the figure a sense of unity, but also dynamism and strength.