Hans Josephson in Ernst Barlach Haus, Hamburg

File:Berlin Josephson 30983.jpg

On Saturday I visited an exhibition of some works of Sculptor Hans Josephson in the Ernst Barlach Haus in Hamburg. I had seen some of Josephson’s sculptures in the Kolumba museum in Cologne before. So I was exited to learn that there was an exhibition in Hamburg in that particular museum.

Having grown up and gone to school in the vicinity of the Jenischpark in which that museum is situated, it was a special pleasure for me to visit both the park and the museum, especially since the weather was nice. And I did not regret going into this exhibition.

The picture above shows one of Josephson’s “Halbfiguren” (in Berlin – unfortunately I have no pictures from the Hamburg exhibition) but you have to see one yourself to see how great this art is. To capture the real beauty of these works on photograph, one would need a lot of pictures for each of them, including close ups and macro photos of the surface. Josephson used brass but left it unpolished, covered in a kind of patina just the way they came out of the casting mold. The surfaces of these sculptures are extremely varied and rich in shapes, textures and colors. He is actually the master of the surface, almost like a painter in 3D. While in most other sculptures, the main effect is in the overal shape and the concepts triggered by it, here it is the surface. You have to look at them from a short distance. Some of the sculptures and reliefs are still figurative, but some (like the one above) look just like rocks or boulders and figurative elements have nearly or completely disappeared from these works.

Pictures like the one above do not do justice to the richness and beauty of the irregular surface structures. This might be one of the reasons why Josephson is not so well known. His works do not look so spectacular from a distance or on a picture. But I am sure his fame will grow.

If you look at on of these “boulders” from a short distance and walk around them to study them from all sides, they throw you into a state before words. It is hard to describe these sculptures and their effect, so I will not try. This is something that words cannot capture. Just go there yourself and see them.

Josephson was born in Königsberg (today Kaliningrad) but spend most of his life in Switzerland and acquired the Swiss citizenship. Besides Alberto Giacometti, he is regarded as the second great Swiss sculptor. Giacometti might have been the more versatile artist, but for my personal taste, just as a sculptor Josephson is the greater one, although he is less famous.

(The picture is from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Berlin_Josephson_30983.jpg.)