Seated youth, 1916–17

His head is bowed in exhaustion and, so it seems, defeat. But who is he? The man does not wear any clothing. His head has been reduced to a bare skull; his facial expression is concealed from view. He is nobody in particular, neither an individual nor the personification of a type. On the contrary, the figure is ambiguous, opens up an entire spectrum of equally plausible interpretations. Before World War I, the sculptor Wilhelm Lehmbruck of Duisburg had lived in Paris for four years among artists from France, Italy, Russia, all over Europe. They shared in discussions and exhibitions, they were each other’s friends. Lehmbruck was horrified by the war fever that broke out among his countrymen in 1914. He was exempted from military service and emigrated to Switzerland in 1916.

This sculpture, which the artist entitled “Tired Warrior” (among other names) was executed in Zurich in 1916. It is the human being tormented by war: the weary, the doubting, the injured, the hopeless, the survivor, the mourner, the memory-plagued… What is more, already merely on account of its pose and its tenuous equilibrium alone, the figure is an affront. This man has given up the compulsory Prussian erectness – he no longer responds to “Attention!” and “Sit straight!” And his closed fist conveys yet another facet – he is a human being who has made a resolution for himself.

Photo: Städel Museum, – U. Edelmann – ARTOTHEK

Cast stone
104 × 50 × 109 cm
Inv. No. SGP 28

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