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Gosebruch, Ernst

    Full Name: Gosebruch, Ernst

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 1872

    Date Died: 1953

    Place Born: Essen, Lower Saxony, Germany

    Place Died: Munich, Bavaria, Germany

    Home Country/ies: Germany

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

    Career(s): directors (administrators) and museum directors


    Director, Essener Kunstmuseum 1909-1922, major exhibitor of German Expressionism. Between 1891 and 1896 Gosebruch studied philology in Munich, Geneva and Berlin. He taught as a private tutor until 1903 when he joined the the Essen museum as an unpaid assistant. During the same time he studied art history in Paris and Berlin, the latter venue under Heinrich Wölfflin. After a second undergraduate degree in art history in 1906, he was appointed in 1909 Director of Essen art museums, a diverse art collection. To this conglomeration, Gosebruch began purchasing modernist art, including a van Gogh, and mounting an exhibition on Emil Nolde. When the seminal collector and museum-founder of modern art, Karl Ernst Osthaus died in 1921, the city fathers purchased his musuem, the Folkwang, in Hagen, Germany moving it to Essen. Gosebruch became the first [Essen] Folkwang Museum director, following Osthaus’ lead in acquisitions. Between 1922 and 1933 Gosebruch created one of the most famous museums in Germany solely devoted to modern art. He became friends with with the Expressionist artists, particularly Die Brücke artists, Christian Rohlfs, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and Erich Heckel. A new building was constructed between 1925-1929. The massive inflation of the Weimar Republic limited much of the design, however. Gosebruch wanted German artists to be in charge of the decoration. A painting in the fountain area was completed by Oskar Schlemmer, but another project, planned for Kirchner, was financially impossible and Kirchner and Gosebruch fell ou on the matter. As a curator, Gosebruch hung exhibitions without regard to historic periods. Gosebruch developed a strong friendship with Max Sauerlandt. The collapse of the Weimar Republic fostered a hate campaing against Gosebruch, fostered by the Kampfbund für Deutsche Kulture (Activists Society for German Culture). Because of the museum government, it was impossible to dismiss Gosebruch as the Reich had done with other museum directors, but pressure on Gosebruch forced him to retire early. Living on a pension in Lübeck, he watched while his successor, Klaus Graf von Baudissin, a Nazi hack, dismantled the collection. More than 1000 works were confiscated by the Nazis, who declared the pieces “Degenerate Art.” After the war Gosebruch lived in Munich. The Folkwang Museum assiduously bought back much of the collection after the War. His son, Martin Gosebruch was also an art historian. Gosebruch was one of a handful of art historians and collectors who brought modern art to Germany, whose numbers included Hugo von Tschudi in Berlin and Munich, Harry Klemens Ulrich Kessler in Weimar, and Osthaus. He mounted shows with the modernist art dealer Alfred Flechtheim.

    Selected Bibliography

    and Baum, Julius. Otto Reiniger und andere Maler aus dem Schwabenland: Schwäbische Kunstausstellung. Essen: Kunst-Museum der Stadt Essen, 1913; and Flechtheim, Alfred. Der “Dome”. Düsseldorf: Galerie Alfred Flechtheim, 1914; “Die Kunstwerke der Neuzeit im Folkwang-Museum: Ein zusammenfassender Rundgang.” Die Kunst (1933). 0.Metzler


    Gemmecke, Claudia. “Ernst Gosebruch.” in, Junge, Henricke, ed. Avantgarde und Publikum: zur Rezeption avantagardistischer Kunst in Deutschland, 1905-1933. Vienna: Böhler, 1992, pp. 111-117; 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. 234-5.


    "Gosebruch, Ernst." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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