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Frierende Alte (Freezing Crone)

Ernst Barlach

"Frierende Alte (Freezing Crone)", 1937


9.41 x 6.57 x 7.56 in

Signed on the left "E Barlach"
Foundry stamp verso on the left
Edition size of 15, unnumbered, no lifetime cast,
Cast in the 1980s
Cat. Rais.: Elisabeth Laur, Ernst Barlach, Das plastische Werk (Vol. II), Ernst Barlach Stiftung Güstrow, 2006,
Cat. Rais. No. 608, illustration on p. 268.


Über das Werk

The model of the figure "Freezing Crone" was obviously created on a turntable: The artist continually scrutinized his intended statement and the physical gesture from new perspectives to achieve the greatest possible impact.
Maintaining a low-profile, offering as small a target as possible was not easy in the mid-1930s for this increasingly persecuted artist. Financially, his situation had long since become precarious, reducing the prospect of a retreating to a tranquil existence on the Güstrow Inselsee to a faint hope - for the reality of his situation was very different. Formally the artist responded with visually perceptible soul-searching. No longer did he fashion expansive sculptures, but overwhelmingly introspective works, both real and metaphorical. The "Freezing Crone" marks the zenith of his endeavours to depict self-protection, a genuine block or core sculpture. With her legs drawn tightly to her body and clasped by her hands, she casually generates a feeling of unresolved tension (Barlach's friend the artist Käthe Kollwitz was - using different artistic means- to design a quite similar subject in 1938 with her compact "Tower of Mothers").
Our view of this block-like truncated form, however, remains restrictive and one sided, until we consider the subtitle of the work, explicitly chosen by the artist, namely "Die alte Gewittersche" ("The Old Hag"): It is well known that this combination of 'curling oneself into a ball' and 'extending one's spines' is a proven method to combat adversity of all kind. In a conversation on the 'Laughing Crone' and the 'Freezing Crone' with his friend Friedrich Schult in the year this figure was executed, Barlach stated: "This is the 'Laughing Crone' and that is the old “hag”; God forfend that we ever land between their jaws."Resonating here is the somewhat grim and defiant basic statement of the - albeit slightly embittered - mirth in the sister piece "Laughing Crone" (also in 1937), and shows - in response to the cold snaps and other adversities - a reaction.This small-format work - at least in terms of its dimension - is ideal for giving vivid expression to the last vestiges of Barlach's resistance. And despite her discernibly fragile condition, she still articulates a moment of resolute defiance. That this work provoked an immediate impact at the time, can be gleaned from the contemporary political reaction. After the wooden version of "Freezing Crone", together with the "Laughing Crone" had been on view in June 1937 in the book store owned by Karl Buchholz, the regional director of the "Reichs Chamber of Fine Arts" imposed an exhibition ban on Ernst Barlach on orders from above.
(Horst Müller)

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