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By Roger Peyrefitte

Grandmaster of the Alexander Order


One often hears of the "great Enlightened Ones who, from century to century, entrust to each other the secrets of the mysteries and of spirituality. Such men of enlightenment can also be found among artists, who, from age to age, have had the privilege to leave behind the finest paintings of men. Arno Breker is the last in this celebrated line, which leads from Phidias and Praxiteles to Rodin and Maillol. A spark from each of them lit his torch--his beacon, as Baudelaire would say, who called all great artists beacons, because they enlighten mankind and are a pledge of the dignity and promise of the future.

How can this be done? These men understood that the answer lay in the representation of that through which we exist: the human body.

It is the most perfect expression of nature, in whose midst it was created; it is their master. If it may also sometimes be their destroyer, still, through art it is possible for man to overcome his destiny. The human being remains the highest challenge for the artist, for what seems the easiest to recreate, is actually the most difficult. Protogenes recognized the work of Apelles by the perfect way the latter had drawn a straight line.

I would like to say however, that the sculptor has an advantage over the painter. The sculptor is able to imitate nature more closely, because he is able to give volume to his work. We are thereby more receptive to the beauty and delight of a sculpture than to that of a painting. Pygmalion embraced his statue of Venus: no legend however--if it doesn't spring from the poet's imagination--is guaranteed the same fate as that which is reserved for a painting. It follows, consequently, that more can be embodied in a statue than in any other artistic medium.

Lukian of Samosate told us in his "Dream," in which he allowed the sculpture to speak, that "Phidias, Polyklet, Myron and Praxiteles had been praised and admired and that they were now being worshipped alongside the gods. Was ever a greater respect bestowed upon artists than through words such as these? And for all that it is a question concerning the sculptor. For it is plainly the sculptor, of equally high birth as Prometheus, who--after he had formed the first human being--stole fire from the immortals in order to give it to men.

This fire of life distinguishes the mediocre artist from the godlike one; it distinguishes a magnificent original from a mere imitation or copy. It differentiates in minute detail the Parthenon from the Madeleine church in Paris.

What is life? It is the soul. A torso, a face modeled by Breker are not just remarkable reproductions of reality; they speak and vibrate with life. They are living, because they have souls.

Breker's bust of Jean Cocteau was selected to adorn the chapel-tomb of Milly-la-Foret. The friends of this poet will nowhere find his character traits, with all their spirit, all their fascination, better immortalized in bronze than here. There will also never be a more beautiful bust of Dali than the one which Breker made of him. The most gifted painter of the century is perfectly represented in it with his devouring eyes and all of his demoniacal possession. He is at once conqueror, conquistador, and picador in one--conquistador in all areas of art; picador, who with his banderillas has punctured all the established norms.

I cannot conclude this apology of Arno Breker without glorifying the man equally as much as the artist. I would like to speak of the perfect tenderness of his friendship, the beauty of his face and of his glance--beauty which he alone has the power to express. Through his first wife, who was Greek, he has, so to speak, been personally joined with Greece, the homeland of beauty. It was from Greece that he acquired the purity of his inspiration and where, in the vicinity of Rodin and Maillol, he learned technique. Perhaps he may yet decide, in order to crown his youthful four times twenty-one years, to give us the group of Alexander and Hephaistos, for which my work, which is dedicated to the greatest genius in history, was the inspiration.

To the words of the sculptor, Lukian of Samosate adds another kind of oracle, meant for those who strive to fulfill it: "You will bring glory to your fatherland. Through his art Arno Breker glorifies two countries, Germany and France, for, like all the great artists who have made their mark on this century, he reached the summit of his art in Paris.

And so, I am doubly pleased--as a friend of his fatherland and as a Frenchman--to have written these lines in his honor. I salute the sculptor in him, who already during his own lifetime has established his place near the gods.



Translation by: Lynne Nibbelink
COPYRIGHT 1981 MARCO Edition, Paris/WEST-ART PUBLISHERS, P.O. Box 279, Clarence, New York 14031 U.S.A.

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