Saved Pablo Picasso's life as Hitler's favorite sculptor: Arno Brecker
Saved Pablo Picasso's life as Hitler's favorite sculptor: Arno Brecker
Arno Brecker at work

Arno Brecker was friends with the most famous modernist painters, was fond of the Renaissance, became famous as the chief sculptor of Nazi Germany and saved the life of Pablo Picasso. Hitler's favorite sculptor, treated kindly by the authorities, after the war he escaped the fate of his customers and, according to rumors, almost went to work in the Soviet Union …

Arno Brecker and his creations

Arno Brecker was born in 1900 to the family of a stonecutter. From a young age he watched the work of his father, who instilled in him an interest in working with stone and showed him the first techniques for creating sculptures. Of course, he understood that he should not so much continue the family business as go further, look for himself in the area that he had been involved with since childhood. He graduated from a vocational school, then entered the Dusseldorf Academy of Arts, and closer to thirty, he visited Paris, where he took sculpture lessons from many famous artists. He moved in the most bohemian Parisian circles of those years - later his friends will be on the list of artists of "degenerate art". Arno said that only then he was happy - all subsequent fame, awards and recognition could not overshadow the memories of meetings with Cocteau and Maillol, of meeting Demeter Messala, of friendship with Picasso …

Arno liked classical images, unambiguous, understandable beauty, he was fascinated by antique statues. Unlike his modernist friends, he dreamed of reviving academic sculpture, moreover, to bring examples of high classics to the streets, to make them part of the urban space. Returning to Germany, he began to translate his ideas into reality. He had a lot of customers. Monuments to the fallen in the First World War, sculptures for churches and public buildings, numerous portraits, and, finally, two magnificent statues for the Olympic Games in Berlin. Beautifully built athletes with harmonious but impassive faces embodied the ideal that the ideologists of German Nazism dreamed of.

Monuments to the participants of the First World War

A year and a half later, Brecker received a call from Albert Speer, Hitler's chief architect who was working on the project for the Reich Chancellery. He said that Brecker must prepare models for sculptures that will decorate the building of the Reich Chancellery in a week. "The Fuhrer has chosen you!" - heard Brecker and … did not find the will to refuse.

Brecker's harsh Aryan warriors

So Arno Brecker started working for the government of Nazi Germany - and he liked it. According to contemporaries, he often wore a Nazi uniform, decorated with badges and medals, which the Fuhrer generously awarded him. This state of affairs allowed Brecker to protect his beloved from the attention of the Gestapo, whose origin was not just "not enough Aryan" - Demeter Messala was a Greek woman with, presumably, Jewish roots. To please customers, he created more and more monumental images, literally superhumans - colossus with lumpy muscles and stern looks.

On the right is a sculptural portrait of Hitler

He also sculpted several busts of Hitler (but he was not delighted). When the war began, Brecker was recognized as a national treasure in Germany, which exempted him from military service - such a talent was too valuable for the Reich. In November 1940, he personally met with the USSR People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs Vyacheslav Molotov, who tried to lure him to the USSR, where the sculptor could devote himself to Soviet monumental propaganda - Stalin turned out to be a great admirer of the works of the famous Nazi sculptor. After the war, Brecker was called back to the USSR, to which he replied: "One dictator was enough for me." For the next decades, the name of Arno Brecker was banned in the USSR.

Apollo and Daphne

Together with Hitler, Brecker visited Paris, where in 1942 his personal exhibition took place.Prisoners of war worked in Brecker's workshops - so that the Fuhrer's favorite could deliver more and more stone giants as quickly as possible. And here it is necessary to mention that side of Brecker's life, which he diligently hid from his Nazi customers.

Brecker became the official sculptor of Nazi Germany

There was a house in Brecker in Paris where he kept the work of artists of "degenerate art" - those whose work was banned in Germany. The walls of the French residence of Arno Brecker were hung with paintings by Vlaminck, Leger, Picasso … Brecker appreciated long-standing connections, almost openly intervened when his friends were threatened. Among those who were saved by him, for example, a Jewish woman and a communist Dina Verny - the model of Maillol, later a well-known patron who helped Russian artists. When the communist Picasso was threatened with arrest, Brecker insisted on meeting with the commandant of Paris and personally enlisted his support in order to snatch his friend from the clutches of the Nazis, and when all the arguments were useless, he casually dropped that the Fuhrer had been talking about the apoliticality of the artists at breakfast. It's hard to say how many people were on Brecker's list, but that was what saved him.

In 1950, a denazification court recognized Brecker as a "satellite" of the Nazi regime - but not a war criminal. He paid a small fine and pledged to make a fountain for his hometown free of charge as compensation, which, however, he happily forgot. Arno Brecker retained his fortune, freedom, and the ability to continue to work. Very quickly, he formed a new army of customers, which included members of the German government, and major financiers, and representatives of the Jewish diaspora. He created portraits of the poet and playwright Jean Cocteau and his lover, the actor Jean Mare. After the war, Brecker also became close to Dali - he posed for a beautiful bronze portrait, very detailed and soulful.

Brecker lived to see the unification of Germany and passed away in 1991 - almost the same age as the century. He said that he did not repent of any of his decisions, of any of his actions, because everything he did was for the sake of art. Many of his works have survived (including thanks to the efforts of his second wife), but exhibiting them was problematic due to Brecker's collaboration with the Nazis, and it was only in 2006 that Brecker's legacy was presented to the general public.

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