Home | Prometheus Nr. 179| Alexander Order


By Joe F. Bodenstein

The hours constituting our lifetime become fateful when we encounter a human being whose personality, style and magnetism is so pleasant and welcoming, that it becomes truly hard to part from him. This is certainly valid in the private domain, and is especially more true in encountering such a person in the arts.

Luck and time must be favorable, for both the artist and for the man who represents him. A lucky day it was when Pablo Picasso, as a young man, met Daniel Henry Kahnweiler. Kahnweiler's friend, the equally great Alfred Flechtheim of Berlin, very early recognized "the genius of Breker," and thus sponsored him.

It was an eventful century filled with great heights and unexpected depths which pulled at Arno Breker, forcing him into the vortex of mundane events of which he was unable to control. However all of the praise, criticism, deprecation and hatred during those fateful decades did not break Breker's spirit--he went right on portraying, producing, and indeed creating an image of mankind in its most sublime form.

So, it was to be a fateful hour for me to continue together with Arno Breker, the work so aptly started by Alfred Flechtheim during the nineteen-twenties. I am so grateful for the many years of acquaintance and of my relationship with Daniel Henry Kahnweiler, to whom I am thankful for his invaluable encouragement regarding my own publishing efforts...which transpired early in my career with Arno Breker.

The sympathy shown by Kahnweiler (who resided in Paris) both for Germany and its leading artists, was expressed in a letter which he wrote to me, of which he states..."Alfred Flechtheim was one of the great personalities among the art dealers to whom it was important to discover and to promote great talents and to make them fully accessible to the public...He had a feeling for quality. Those artists, who were sponsored by him, were all successful. My teamwork with Flechtheim started very early; our objective was to bring to Germany a good exposure to artists such as Braque, Picasso, Kermadec, Juan Gris, Leger, Masson, Chagall--to name a few. That was in the twenties. Flechtheim is ever surrounded by a family of artistic talent including of course Arno Breker, to whom he lent a certain fatherly affection. In the assessment and selection...we always agreed. Alfred Flechtheim, I should say, was my friend."

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According to the evaluation of other artists, Breker was the incontestable leading talent in sculpture of the classic tradition...since the nineteen-twenties. Such praise is still heard and uttered even today from leading artists of contemporary stature and talent. Ernst Fuchs-- honored Arno Breker as the "prophet of beauty," Salvador Dali could only describe the prized third member of this trio as: "ingenius, ingenius, ingenius." This 'king' of surrealists further stated that, "God is Beauty and Arno Breker remains his prophet."

When Henry Moore of England expressed "great admiration for (Breker's) work," Breker returned his mutual respect by recognizing Moore as "an expressive artist of unmistakable quality."

Alexander Calder, an early friend with whom Breker shared his studio in Paris, recalled in New York in 1974, that those Parisian times were days filled with notes of encouragement:

"Today from a distance of decades, I can say without a qualm: Arno Breker is the most significant living sculptor of the classical tradition in our time. America, open your heart."

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A special fascination radiates from the busts created by Arno Breker. Various personalities of our time are as much a part of his work as are unknown people, who were blessed generously by the Master's touch. The first state-sponsored order that Breker received dates back some years. As a young man he portrayed Reichspresident Friedrich Ebert. Other historical figures include Ludwig Erhard, Konrad Adenauer, Leopold Sedar Senghor, and Anwar el Sadat.

Poet and statesman Senghor, recipient of the peace prize of the German book trade, made a special trip from Africa to France in order to model for Breker. He stated in reference to Breker's work:

"The sheer vitality which glows in Breker's portraits--as well as in his sculptures--is something needed by mankind. This quality inspires human development. When Breker draws our attention to this fundamental or basic being, he is both teacher and preacher, indeed a voice not to be ignored."

According to Anwar el Sadat: "The face of peace is precious to us all. What is more desirable among mankind than the preservation of peace? When an artist like Arno Breker shapes these exquisite symbols into a lasting form, then the hearts of mankind belong to him just as they should also belong to peace, humanity, justice and friendship."

Konrad Adenauer stated: "Art which timelessly inspires man has its roots in faith in the Divine. The work of an artist shows his soul, his spiritual roots and his mission. Since BREKER is perfectly true in his artistic expression he is filled with hope when he points to the future--because without hope there is no future for mankind."

Critical voices can be heard, from time to time, which still fail to honor the Master. One notable exception however is: 'his individual works are just too beautiful, too perfect.' How might Breker defend himself? One should consider his own words where he states that, "Beauty is no disgrace." Truly Breker does not create his sculptures of men and women out of some exotic imagination tinged with cheap romantic fantasy--for his art remains in direct contact with reality, however inspired, because he works directly with live models.

Despite all such distortions, each of Breker's sculptures depicts the human being of our time. Each piece is a masterwork in itself. To create a permanent ideal monument for mankind, as a basis for a healthy future, is an ideal especially inspiring for our youthful generation.

Physical beauty, as Arno Breker understands it, requires both discipline and achievement. This beauty of the body is especially reflected in the physique of the athletes which the Master retains in his various drawings, graphics and sculpture. Thus Walter Kusch and Peter Nocke are his models as well as Eberhard Gienger and Kurt Bendlin.

One of the "unknown beauties" is the gypsy boy with whom Arno Breker met in Paris during the nineteen-twenties, and with whom he worked for years. The portrait ROMANCHEL is of this boy (a portrait still extant), and of which still confirms the idea of a renaissance in beauty. This aristocratic face of a youth confronted with the transformation from boyhood to manhood, radiates with such an aspect of magnificence that it reminds one of the famous portraitures of Early Egypt. Placed side by side to one of the early Egyptian examples, one is surprised: Breker's Romanichel is in no way inferior to the famed masterpieces from the Nile. On the contrary, his works are more qualified to stand as being soulful. This portrait, as well as many other works, exhibits that Arno Breker:

"...is not only a sculptor of the beautiful and of youth, but also an artist who has an uninterrupted relationship with the young generation."

Thus one may both comprehend and understand the poetic definition thus stated by Roger Peyrefitte on the 80th birthday of this artist, Arno Breker, of which he so aptly added, "Four time twenty years young!"

Arno Breker's oeuvre is a hymn to youth and to all who have remained young in their hearts.


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PROMETHEUS, Internet Bulletin for Art, Politics and Science.