On the 125th anniversary of the birth of the German writer and winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, Gerhart Hauptmann, a monumental bust of the writer was erected in front of the Haus Schlesien ("Silesian House") in the Siebengebirge area near Bonn on November 15, 1987. The bust was created by the sculptor Arno Breker. Along with the erection of this Hauptmann bust in front of the Haus Schlesien the close friendship between the venerable writer who would like to have been a sculptor himself and the then still young but no less promising talent, Arno Breker, has experienced a new and symbolic victory over death. As we all know, Gerhart Hauptmann died on June 6, 1946; just a few days before his death he asked in view of the Soviet and Polish occupation of his Silesian homeland, "Am I still in my own home?" Arno Breker lives in Düsseldorf today, and visitors can witness there first hand his uninterrupted creative force despite the advanced age of the master.
The publisher, Peter Suhrkamp, wrote about a meeting between Arno Breker and Gerhart Hauptmann in the Hotel Adlon in Berlin at which also the painter, Leo von König, was present, "On that evening there began a close association between Gerhart Hauptmann and Arno Breker. Gerhart Hauptmann right up to his death had extraordinary respect for Breker as an artist and human being because of the latter's personal integrity and great talent. Breker made a portrait bust of Gerhart Hauptmann on his 80th birthday although the unofficial authorities in Berlin rejected a celebration of his birthday, and although birthday celebrations in Breslau and Vienna where that bust was exhibited were held over the objections of the Propaganda Ministry whose policies Hauptmann had opposed."
Only now for the first time have some letters from Gerhart Hauptmann to Arno Breker come to light; their preservation is owed to the propitious circumstance that Breker used them as bookmarks in books by the author he so revered. These books were among the few things Breker himself saved after the collapse. On October 18, 1943, Hauptmann telegraphed the young sculptor, "I witnessed a young maestro devoutly busy at the pinnacle of his creative work and my faith was inspired by it. May fate continue to bless your hand, and I feel it will be to the everlasting honor of German art." On September 1, 1943, Hauptmann wrote Arno Breker about his home, "Seedorn" ("Sea Thorn"), on the island of Hiddensee, "We sincerely regret that you have not yet gotten to know and enjoy our island. Even our little cottage is worth taking a look at. Thank God, you are young and will regain in full what you have lost. Of course, your dear wife would have to leave the car on the (island of) Rügen since such vehicles are not allowed on Hiddensee, and, of course, you could not do anything with it anyway."
How very much the venerable Gerhart Hauptmann was inspired by his friendship with Arno Breker and how very much it stimulated him is shown in a letter of February 18, 1944, in which he says at the beginning, "Your letter that just arrived is among the rarest occurrences for us nowadays: it has a rejuvenating effect; from it there speaks a young healthy, strong, devout work which of necessity has to light a fire of inspiration undoubtedly. For doing such a thing no amount of thanks is sufficient." The plaster cast of Pegasus, created by Breker, that the sculptor presented to Gerhart Hauptmann was the occasion for the latter in the last of the letters received from him--it is dated August 20, 1944--to reflect about his age. Hauptmann wrote, "What good is it to say thanks in the face of such youthful beauty and power by which the old person may be rejuvenated for moments, minutes and on occasion even an hour? One must experience age in order to measure the full value of such moments. I have not dealt with or analyzed old age for a long time now. Just as youth for its part had to be overcome somehow so is that also the case with old age. The relatively peaceful life in the country at least allows us to be objective about it. Also one is mirrored in the peasant and day laborer who is on the same level. The only fortunate things we steal together for ourselves here and there and look for everywhere are radiating beams whether they be those from the sun or--taken in the broadest sense--those from art. Pegasus is a fiery stead; even Mohammed owned such an animal on which he was able to ride through heaven and earth. In short: your stead also, your work of the most vital beauty radiates beams, and I am actually able to rejuvenate myself by means of them."
If it were Gerhart Hauptmann in his old age who created so much from the work of and his friendship with Arno Breker, then it is most certainly not an exaggeration to say that today it is the 88-year-old sculptor to whom the memory of numerous meetings and conversations with Gerhart Hauptmann just like the constant reading of his works are a bit of an elixir of life. Therefore, it is a blessing for the master that the bust of the Nobel Prize winner, created by him on Hauptmann's 80th birthday, has now found its way to the Haus Schlesien. After the Hauptmann bust has stood there for such a long time on a makeshift pedestal made of wood, now in front of Haus Schlesien a "boulder" made of granite from the Riesengebirge area on the present-day Czech-Polish border has arrived. "Boulders" of this type are found today in the park on the Hauptmann estate, "Wiesenstein," in the Riesengebirge. The "boulder" to which Arno Breker's Hauptmann bust has been anchored was picked out this past summer by the Chairman of the Haus Schlesien Society himself, Dr. Klaus Ullmann, in the Riesengebirge.
The Hauptmann bust created by Arno Breker in bronze on Silesian granite from the Riesengebirge that Gerhart Hauptmann so loved: could there be a better symbol for the deep friendship of the two great Germans, a friendship marked by mutual regard and respect even beyond death?"
Translated from the German by Dr. Benjiman D. Webb
Copyright 2001 West-Art
PROMETHEUS, Internet Bulletin for Art, Politics and Science.