Since its founding, the museum has been actively working on the care and study of Georg Kolbe’s artistic and written legacy, which is one of the most extensive artists‘ estates in the history of sculpture. In addition, it sees itself as a research center dedicated to the history of modernist sculpture. A particular focus is the inclusion of female voices of early modernist sculpture in Germany, represented in the museum with works by artists such as Renée Sintenis, Emy Roeder, Milly Steger, Genni Wiegmann-Mucchi, and Marg Moll. Thanks to numerous important partial bequests held by the museum, its collection enables a concentrated review of the history of sculpture history in the first half of the twentieth century.

1/4 Depot of the Georg Kolbe Museum, 2020, photo: Jürgen Keiper
1/4 Depot of the Georg Kolbe Museum, 2020, photo: Carolin Jahn
1/4 Notebooks and family photos from the estate, photo: Steffen Roth
1/4 Georg Kolbe´s calendars, photo: Nikolaus Hausser

Catalogue of the Sculptures

The museum currently is working on a first comprehensive catalog of Georg Kolbe’s sculptures, which will systematically summarize the scholarly research results obtained in the Georg Kolbe Museum over the past decades. The catalogue will present a core inventory of approximately 800 securely attributable works and make it digitally accessible in early 2024. Networked with all other content from the museum’s collection, which is already searchable online, the publication of this multi-layered research will provide unprecedented insights into the work of one of the most influential German sculptors of the last century. Conceived as an ongoing research project, the content will be continuously updated and supplemented. The catalogue of sculptures is being realized with the generous support of the Hermann Reemtsma Foundation and the Ernst von Siemens Art Foundation.

Compiler: Thomas Pavel

Scholarly expertises on individual works by Kolbe for the art trade are provided by Dr. Ursel Berger. Inquiries can be directed to Thomas Pavel.

Indexing the Museum Collection

Since 2013, Georg Kolbe’s artistic estate has undergone a scholarly process of cataloguing, digitizing and successively publishing in the museum’s own Kolbe Online database as well as in the German Digital Library (DDB). Support is being provided by the State of Berlin. In addition to Kolbe’s sculptures, drawings, plaster models, and prints, the extensive collection of historical work photographs, which strikingly documents the production process of his art, will also be made accessible here.

A wealth of references to individual works of art and their historical conditions of their production can also be found in the artists‘ papers kept in the museum. From 2008 – 2010, the correspondence was indexed as part of a scholarly project funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) and recorded in the Kalliope autograph database. The 2,500 items from Kolbe’s estate – including letters from well-known personalities such as Ernst Barlach, Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg, Erich Heckel, Karl von der Heydt, Annette Kolb, Max Liebermann, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Hans Prinzhorn, and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff – are being transcribed on an ongoing basis. The results have been made available for digital searches in Kolbe Online since 2019.

The recently indexed and digitized exhibits include works by artists from Kolbe’s private art collection, including Auguste Rodin and Aristide Maillol, as well as later acquisitions and donations from the sculptor’s personal circle, such as those by Renée Sintenis, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, Richard Scheibe, Gerhard Marcks, and Wilhelm Lehmbruck. As part of the current digitization project, these sculptures and works on paper will also be presented in Kolbe Online in early 2022.

Project lead: Carolin Jahn

Georg Kolbe’s “Second” Estate

A significant part of Kolbe’s written legacy was moved to Vancouver in the nineteen seventies by his granddaughter, Maria von Tiesenhausen, where she lived for a many years. From 1969 to 1978 she was director of the Georg Kolbe Museum and in this function compiled an edition of selected letters by Kolbe (published in 1987). In 2019, Maria von Tiesenhausen passed away at the age of 90. Sifting through her estate revealed the large amount of documents and works by the artist that she had taken with her to Canada and that rightfully belonged to the Georg Kolbe Foundation. With its return to Germany in the spring of 2020, Georg Kolbe’s estate will be united for the first time in over 50 years. These papers represent an extremely important find for the history of twentieth century art, unparalleled in its quantitative and qualitative extent. The objects found in Canada (in addition to documents also sculptures, drawings, and prints) are an essential part of Kolbe’s estate. Along with the approximately 3,000 letters to and from Georg Kolbe, they include notebooks, pocket calendars, private photographs and illustrations of works, as well as official documents. These objects will allow the artist to be located anew and more precisely in his work processes and artistic ambitions, but also as a personality. In terms of contemporary history, the documents cover the years from ca. 1900-1947 and thus the most decisive decades of the twentieth century for German and European history. They will provide important information about the ambivalences that characterized the reality of an artist’s life during these years.

Thanks to the generous support of the Ernst von Siemens Foundation and the Hermann Reemtsma Foundation, the museum was able to begin with the scholarly cataloging of this valuable part of the estate in April 2020. Since then, the material has been systematically reviewed and inventoried. The goal is to integrate the material into the museum’s existing archive and to make it available for research on Georg Kolbe and his time by the museum’s staff and external scholar as soon as possible. As the digitization of the material is one of the priorities of the Georg Kolbe Museum, these documents will also be successively made accessible via Kolbe Online, Kalliope and the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek.

Project lead: Dr. Elisa Tamaschke

Georg Kolbe and National Socialism. Continuities and Breaks in Life, Work and Reception

Georg Kolbe’s estate, unique in its complexity and degree of preservation, documents the continuities and breaks in an artist’s life in four political systems. An outstanding desideratum has been an in-depth examination of Kolbe’s artistic work and social actions under National Socialism. In order to do justice to this important research task, the museum assembled a panel of experts in the fall of 2021 that will for example explore Kolbe’s self-promotional strategies, his communications with and conduct on the art market, his dealings with public and private commissions and his participation in exhibitions based on unrestricted access to the all the documents held by his estate. A critical examination of the history and narrative of the artist’s reception in the latter half of the twentieth will also be made possible through the section of estate from Canada as well as the supplementary partial bequests from Kolbe’s assistant Margrit Schwartzkopff, his son-in-law Kurt von Keudell, and his granddaughter Maria von Tiesenhausen.

In addition to advancing new insights into Georg Kolbe, the history of modernist sculpture will be reflected upon in a historical-critical manner. The Kolbe microcosm can help to make more precise statements about working conditions, the art market, and the relationship between art and politics in the macrocosm of modern sculpture. Although research in recent decades has made important contributions to an understanding of sculpture National Socialism, an updating of our knowledge seem possible and necessary today.

In September 2022, the results of the research will be presented at a conference entitled „Georg Kolbe and National Socialism. Continuities and Breaks in Life, Work and Reception“. The publication of the conference papers (German/English) will be published in November 2023 (Gebr. Mann Verlag). A first contribution can already be downloaded here: Gesa Jeuthe Vietzen „Der verbindliche Verzicht. Georg Kolbe als Gläubiger der Galerie Alfred Flechtheim GmbH“.

Project lead: Dr. Julia Wallner and Dr. Elisa Tamaschke.

Research Group Members:
Wolfgang Brauneis, Curator of the exhibition “Divinely Gifted”. National Socialism’s Favoured Artists in the Federal Republic”, DHMProf. Dr. Magdalena Bushart, TU BerlinDr. Yvette Deseyve, Alte Nationalgalerie BerlinAmbra Frank, Research assistant for exhibition “Divinely Gifted” at the DHM, PhD student at LMU MunichProf. Dr. Christian Fuhrmeister, ZI MunichDr. Josephine Gabler, Käthe-Kollwitz-Museum BerlinJan Giebel M.A., Gustav Lübcke Museum HammDr. Arie Hartog, Gerhard-Marcks-Haus BremenDr. Christina Irrgang, art historian and media researcher, author and musicianProf. Dr. Olaf Peters, Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-WittenbergDr. Wolfgang Schöddert, Berlinische GalerieDr. Dorothea Schöne, Kunsthaus DahlemDr. des. Paula Schwerdtfeger, art historianProf. Dr. Aya Soika, Bard College BerlinDr. Maike Steinkamp, Neue Nationalgalerie BerlinDr. Anja Tiedemann, art historianDr. Gesa Vietzen, Advisory Commission on the return of cultural property seized as a result of Nazi persecution, especially Jewish property