Review of the new book Arno Breker: The Divine Beauty in Art, interviewed by B. John Zavrel
"Any respect for tradition must clearly recognize the
element therein which is eternally fruitful, namely its
love of nature and truth."
A. Rodin: The Testament
Although the motto of the sculptor Arno Breker reads "Create, artist! Don't talk!" (J.W.v. Goethe), there have been a number of times in the course of his long life that he has addressed himself in book or essay forms to the reader interested in art, primarily in his memoirs, In the Limelight of Events (1972) and the volume of his Writings (1983). Both works are autobiographical in content and deal only marginally with theoretical discussions of the problems which confront a sculptor.
However, the latest book, entitled Arno Breker: The Divine Beauty in Art, is completely different. The artist is author on the one hand, and subject on the other, for this book is the printed version of an interview which B. John Zavrel, president of the Arno Breker Society International (ABSI), conducted in 1983 in Düsseldorf.
Zavrel's questions are directed primarily at clarifying Breker's relationship to the classical art of Greece, but also to that of other advanced cultures. Breker's replies and views show that the art of ancient and classical Greece, in particular, have influenced his conception of classicism and classical art. This view remains tied into a Western-Christian understanding of the world--a world with a divine Creator at its hub and as its source. Nevertheless, this concept of classical art is so open that Breker sees its characteristics--which can be summarized under the concept of universal harmony--reflected in the cultures of Asia, Africa, and America as well. All these manifestations of human activity are for Breker the expression of a yearning for harmony and beauty, and thus his artworks belong to his "musée imaginaire" (A. Malraux). In spite of the theoretical discussions, in which Breker expounds upon even the most minute details in his works, he has always kept a keen and ready eye on contemporary phenomena. The latter are gauged and set in relation to his intellectual position, which we call the "precedence of classicism." Classicism as leitmotif, which Breker defined in his Writings as the "expression of absolute harmony in the universe," wherein "everything has a fixed place, a harmonic order," becomes the fundamental concept which penetrates all areas of life. The basis for this is the deeply humane substance of Breker's personality. From this, too, stems Breker's repeated advice to young artists to begin their artistic training with a thorough study of the classical artists. The path which the individual artist then follows is determined only by the events of his own life.
In excerpts from the interview, Breker's intellectual stance, as well as his practical advice to study the old masters, calls to mind the Testament of Auguste Rodin. The latter's use of forms was Breker's point of orientation during the years in Paris, even after he found other solutions to sculptural problems toward the end of the 1920's. This is an indication that the various forms of artistic expression, which manifest themselves in the works of artists, can still be based on the same principle.
The interview before us is a witness to Breker's intellectual vitality. The richness of his observations, the intensity of his experience, and the pregnancy of his language will surprise not only those who are well-acquainted with his works and his life, but art historians will also discover in him a literary source worthy of exhaustive study.
B. John Zavrel: Arno Breker - The
Divine Beauty in Art
Foreword by Dr. B.D. Webb.
Copyright 2001 West-Art
PROMETHEUS, Internet Bulletin for Art, Politics and Science.