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Hans Baluschek (1870-1935)


Hans Baluschek (1870-1935) was the son of a railway engineer. Born in Breslau, he studied in Berlin, where he subsequently embarked on a career as a painter and graphic artist. His early work portrayed the ‘alienation’ of Berlin’s ordinary working people by the demeaning conditions of life in an industrialised city. His style, like that of Max Liebermann, with whom he was later associated through the so-called Berlin Secession, was naturalistic and sympathetic. He also produced posters and graphic work for the theatre.

In 1900 Baluschek became a member of the Berlin Secession, a group of progressive artists (including Käthe Kollwitz and Liebermann, the Secession’s first president) who set themselves up in opposition to the official, mainstream culture of Imperial Germany. In 1913 he divorced his first wife, an actress, to marry one of his pupils, Irene Droese.

The First World War evoked patriotic feelings in Baluschek, though these were given ambiguous representation at best in great works such as Kriegswinter (1917), in which a family mourns its war dead against a backdrop of uninterrupted industrial activity. A set of pictures drawn by him were issued in an album titled "Der Krieg, 1914-1916". After the war, Baluschek joined the Social Democratic Party and became increasingly involved in workers movements; he also joined the staff of the ‘people’s high school’ in Berlin. His work on behalf of other artists continued: in 1926 he helped establish an artists’ relief fund; a few years later he took on the directorship of the annual Berlin Exhibition. Denounced by the Nazis when they took power in 1933 as a ‘degenerate’ artist, he died in 1935.

This biography was kindly supplied by Andrew Hewitt.

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