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Franz Ehrlich

Franz Ehrlich

*  1907 Leipzig
† 1984 Bernburg/Saale

Franz Ehrlich, born in Leipzig in 1907, counts among the greatest versatile talents from the generation of Bauhaus students. Even though Franz Ehrlich could have made a living as a locksmith, having completed the respective apprenticeship in 1926, he decided to pick up an education at the Bauhaus in Dessau at the age of 20, as the 1923 Weimar Bauhaus exhibition had impressed him so deeply. He was student and staff member between 1927 and 1930 and also participated in Walter Gropius` project for the Piscator theatre.
It was always important to him to avoid every kind of specialization and to become a universal Bauhaus artist, whose talents would contribute to reform society in all categories. Ehrlich continued putting emphasis on variety even after he had completed his training and founded, together with friends, the "Studio Z" in Berlin. Influences from El Lissitzky and Naum Gabo, with whom he was in close contact, can be observed in his early works, as well as from his Bauhaus teachers Wassily Kandinsky and Joost Schmidt. Franz Ehrlich created dynamic graphic works, paintings and sculptures in a mostly constructivist and abstract style in a coloring that showed the internal relation of geometric and stereometric forms, as well as the external relation to the surrounding space. Some works by Ehrlich in an organically-flowing abstraction are also still in existence.
The promising career of the artist was interrupted after just a few years. Ehrlich, a politically active person, had joined the German Communist Party (KPD) in 1930 and published the banned magazine "Junge Garde" in 1934. The National Socialists arrested Ehrlich, accused him of high treason and sentenced him to ten terrible years in prison: up until 1936 he was imprisoned in Zwickau, and from 1937 to 1939 in the Buchenwald concentration camp. During these years he completed his famous series the "Blättern aus der Haft" (Sheets from Imprisonment), mostly figurative works that remind of the Bauhaus teacher Oskar Schlemmer and Magic Realism.
His captivity did not end when he was released from his prison term; he was sentenced to forced labor in Berlin and also declared unworthy to do military service. Ehrlich spend the last years under the NS dictatorship in the Greek punitive battalion "999" and in war captivity.
At the age of 39 Ehrlich was finally able to return to Germany in 1946, where he was working as an architect. He was head of the Dresden reconstruction unit and was the architect of the GDR Ministry of Foreign Trade, the Scientific Council, the Research Foundation of the Academy of Science; and was also the chief architect of the Leipzig fair in the 1960s.
The Bauhaus philosophies also showed in Ehrlich's post war works, however, not at all with an eye on the past, but always innovative and in an esthetically appealing functionalism. These tendencies in architecture can be observed with the Broadcasting Center in Berlin (1951-1956) or the Franz-Volhard-Clinic in Berlin-Buch (1956/57); also with the interior of the Berlin Becher-Club or the GDR embassies in Paris and Brussels. His most prominent furniture design is the series "602". Franz Ehrlich died in Bernburg in 1984.

Cf.: Franz Ehrlich. Die frühen Jahre. Arbeiten der Jahre 1927-1938, cat. 17 of the Galerie am Sachsenplatz, 88th sales exhibition, Leipzig 1980.