Emil Bert Hartwig
1927–1931 Bauhaus Student
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Emil Bert Hartwig was born on 20 July 1907 in Sinsen near Recklingshausen, the son of a mining company employee. Aged fourteen he embarked on an apprenticeship in an architecture office, but at the age of eighteen he decided to follow his heart and begin to study art. From 1925–1927 Hartwig attended the Handwerker- und Kunstgewerbeschule (School of Trades and Applied Arts) in Essen, later the Folkwang Schule für Gestaltung (Folkwang School of Design). He found his way to the class of Max Peiffer-Watenphul, one of the first graduates of the Bauhaus, who recognised Hartwig’s sensibility for colour and encouraged him to move on to the Bauhaus. Peiffer-Watenphul arranged a stipend for Hartwig in Dessau. In the winter term of 1927 Hartwig enrolled at the Bauhaus as student no. 232 and took up a room on the top floor of the studio building, the so-called Prellerhaus.
After attending the preliminary course with Josef Albers Hartwig learned pictorial weaving in the weaving workshop under Gunta Stölzl, where he was the first male graduate. He and his fellow student Herbert von Arend experimented in the weaving class with diverse materials and endeavoured to incorporate these in their small pictorial works. According to von Arend, these were invariably inspired by Hartwig. Up to this point, no textile artists had taken this path.
The first two textile works that Hartwig created in Gunta Stölzl’s classes in the weaving workshop were included in the touring exhibition Moderne Bildwirkereien, which was curated by art historian Ludwig Grote assisted by Anni Albers and Gunta Stölzl. The exhibition was shown in Dessau in 1929 and then in eight other cities in Germany. In addition to his studies in the weaving workshop Hartwig attended painting classes with Wassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee. In 1931 he received a scholarship from the Bauhaus for a study year in Paris, which led him to painting excursions in Normandy. During this period, works by Hartwig were shown in the Galerie 6 in Paris and he was also able to sell some works, thereby bettering his income. After his stay in Paris, he chose not to resume his studies at the Bauhaus.
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In 1932 Hartwig instead followed his teacher Paul Klee to the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, where he again received a stipend. In March 1933 Klee paid tribute to Hartwig’s apprenticeship as one of his master students. He not only attested to Hartwig’s diligence, but also praised his outstanding talent and the intensity of his works. Klee further noted in his diary that it would pain him to see Hartwig inhibited by poverty now that he was reaching his full potential. Following the exertion of influence by the National Socialists on further education institutions and the cultural sector and violent protests at the academy by radical NS sympathisers, many students, including Hartwig, were arrested, interrogated and questioned about their tutors and fellow students.
After Klee’s summary dismissal in April 1933 he too left the academy and turned away from ‘degenerate’ abstract art. Alexander Zschokke, a Swiss sculptor and likewise a tutor at the academy, recounted a conversation that he had had with Klee, noting his disappointment. Klee had said bitterly: "That my best student betrayed me and defected to my enemies in order to continue to paint flowers and goats defies belief."
Emil Bert Hartwig left the academy in Düsseldorf after the summer semester of 1933 and lived from 1934 in Münster. He conformed to the system and from then on produced small paintings of flowers and landscapes in order to support himself as a freelance painter. In 1934 Hartwig joined the artists’ association known as the Freie Künstlergemeinschaft Schanze Münster. Shortly after the National Socialist Gleichschaltung (synchronisation) of March 1933, this declared its allegiance to the new rulers. Military service followed from 1939 to 1945. Hartwig married after the end of the war and in 1949 set up a studio in Hiltrup. Besides commissions, he produced mainly panel paintings in oils. His first black and white woodcuts were made in 1949. He continued to produce these up to the late-1970s, usually in series with multi-coloured folios. In 1959 he received a lectureship for drawing and painting at the Werkkunstschule Münster, later the Münster University of Applied Sciences, Department of Design, where he taught until 1976. In 1984 Hartwig retired to Freinsheim in Rhineland-Palatinate, where he worked as a painter until his death on 7 February 1996. Emil Bert Hartwig’s oeuvre comprises ca. 90 woodcuts, 100 graphic works, 160 watercolours and over 500 paintings in oil and mixed media.
Text: Burckhard Kieselbach
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- Gerlach-Laxner, Uta (2003): Paul Klee im Rheinland, Köln.
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