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Freund, Karl

    Image Credit: Wikipedia

    Full Name: Freund, Karl

    Other Names:

    • Karl Freund

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 09 July 1882

    Date Died: c. 25 August 1943

    Place Born: Nußloch, Germany

    Place Died: Auschwitz, Silesian Voivodeship, Poland

    Home Country/ies: Germany

    Subject Area(s): Expressionist (style), German (culture, style, period), and German Expressionist (movement)

    Institution(s): Hessisches Landesmuseum Darmstadt


    Curator at the Hessisches Landesmuseum Darmstadt; exponent of Expressionism; primarily focused on works of the painting collection and prints and drawings department. Freund was born in Nußloch, Grand Duchy of Baden [modern Baden-Württemberg], Germany, to Max Freund (1857–1933), a cigar manufacturer, and Auguste Weisenburger (1860–1898). He attended school at the Ludwig-Georgs-Gymnasium in Darmstadt, completing his Abitur in 1900. Freund initially studied law in Heidelberg and Berlin, as well as modern philology and anthropology in Munich and Freiburg. From 1903 to 1906 he studied art history in Munich under Berthold Riehl and at Heidelberg under Adolf von Oechelhäuser. In 1906, Freund earned his doctorate from Munich under Riehl as his advisor. His dissertation, Wand- und Tafelmalerei der Münchener Kunstzone im Ausgange des Mittelalters (Wall and Panel Painting in Late Medieval Munich), was published in Darmstadt in 1906. After receiving his doctorate, Freund traveled extensively in Europe. From 1910 he worked as an art museum intern in Darmstadt, later advancing to assistant. He served in the military in World War I, resulting in two years of captivity in a prisoner of war camp in Siberia. Beginning in 1919, Freund worked as curator at the Hessisches Landesmuseum Darmstadt, mainly concerned with the works of the painting collection and prints and drawings department. His main interest was in modern art. During this time, he lectured, mounted exhibitions, and contributed journal essays and newspaper articles. In 1920, Freund married the painter Elisabeth Fischer (1882–1947). He published an article in Kunst titled “Deutscher Expressionismus in Darmstadt” the same year. From 1928 to 1930, he published folios about drawings in the museum, Zeichnungen aus dem Kupferstichkabinett des Hessischen Landesmuseums zu Darmstadt. Freund, being Jewish, was dismissed from his position on July 1, 1933 for being a “non-Aryan” under Article 4 of the Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service. Freund was deported to the Buchenwald concentration camp in November 1938, but was later released. A subsequent planned emigration to the USA failed. Freund was arrested for a second time in 1943, imprisoned for four weeks in Darmstadt, then deported to Auschwitz and perished in the extermination camp.

    Freund was influenced by the philosopher Georg Simmel. From the 1920s and 1930s, Freund’s work was characterized by the expressionist lexicon. His skepticism towards art history, which he saw only as an aid to the understanding of art, may have been connected to the expressionist sense of the world. Like many of his contemporaries, Freund was concerned with the “experience of the artwork”; at the same time he was not a sentimentalist, but a meticulous scientist who observed detail exactly (Bergsträsser). He is not related to the New York art dealer Karl Augustus Freund (1883–1956).

    Selected Bibliography

    • Wand- und Tafelmalerei der Münchener Kunstzone im Ausgange des Mittelalters. Darmstadt: E. Roether, 1906;
    • “Deutscher Expressionismus in Darmstadt.” Kunst (1920): 42–45;
    • Zeichnungen aus dem Kupferstichkabinett des Hessischen Landesmuseums zu Darmstadt. Frankfurt: Rudolf Schrey, 1928–1930.


    • Franz, Eckhart G. Juden als Darmstädter Bürger. Darmstadt: E. Roether, 1984, pp. 275–8;
    • Bergsträsser, Gisela, ed. Forschen nach dem Sinn der Kunst: Texte aus dem Nachlaß von Karl Freund. Darmstadt: Justus-von-Liebig-Verl., 1988;
    • Wendland, Ulrike. Biographisches Handbuch deutschsprachiger Kunsthistoriker im Exil: Leben und Werk der unter dem Nationalsozialismus verfolgten und vertriebenen Wissenschaftler. Munich: Saur, 1999, vol. 1, pp. 157–8.

    Contributors: Lindsay Dial


    Lindsay Dial. "Freund, Karl." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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