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Waldemar Grzimek

Waldemar Grzimek

*  1918 Rastenburg/Ostpreußen
† 1984 Berlin

The German graphic designer and sculptor Waldemar Grzimek was born on December 5th 1918, to an old Silesian family in Polish Ketrzyn (Rastenburg). In 1924, the family moved to Berlin, where Grzimek, then a young student, exhibited his first sculptures of animals in the Berliner zoo. In 1930, Grzimek won first prize in a young artists' competition at the Berlin zoo. The sculptor Richard Scheibe (1879-1964) noticed Grzimek’s work in 1936. During the following year, the artist began studying stonemasonry at Philipp Holzmann AG in Berlin. Between 1937 and 1941, Grzimek attended the School of Visual Arts in Berlin, where he was taught by Wilhelm Gerstel (1879 - 1963). During this time, he became acquainted with the sculptors Gerhard Marcks (1889 - 1981), Gustav Seitz (1906 - 1969), Fritz Cremer (1906 - 1993) and Hugo Lederer (1871 - 1940).
In 1941 Grzimek was called up for service the German navy. After winning the "Rome Prize" in 1942, he studied at the Villa Massimo in Rome. Following his return to Berlin, Grzimek was appointed tutor of animal and portrait sculpture at the Burg Giebichenstein School of Art (1946-1948). In 1947, he became a member of the artist group "Die Fähre" (The Ferry Boats) in Halle an der Saale. Between 1948 and 1951, he was employed as a professor at the School of Visual Arts in Berlin Charlottenburg. In 1952, Grzimek worked as a freelance artist in West Berlin, became a member of the German Association of Visual Artists, and during the same year, undertook a study trip to the Soviet Union with René Graetz (1908 - 1974), Fritz Cremer, Gustav Seitz and Ruthild Hahne (1910 - 2001). Between 1954 and 1958, he became head of the German Association of Visual Artists’ District Organisation, and in 1957, he undertook a professorship at the School of Visual and Applied Arts in Berlin Weisensee. On the anniversary (1797-1856) of Heinrich Heine’s death, Grzimek began executing a Heine monument, three versions of which can now be found in Ludwigsfelde, and Berlin (at Weinbergspark and Humboldt University). In 1959, the sculptor was awarded the "National Prize of the GDR". His figural groups, which he had been executing since the mid-1960s, deal with National Socialism. In 1955/56, the artist executed a sculpture at the Buchenwald concentration camp memorial site with Gaetz and Kies, and in 1959/60, a figural group at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp memorial site.
In 1961, Grzimek moved into his parent’s home in Friedrichshafen by the Bodensee. In 1966, he built the concrete façade, complete with reliefs, of the "Kino International" on the Karl-Marx-Allee (Berlin), with Hubert Schiefelbein and Karl-Heinz Schamal. From 1968, the sculptor was head of sculpture at the Darmstadt Technical College.
During the 1970s, he completed a number of art historical publications, including "German Sculptors of the 20th Century" (1969), "The Sculptural Elements of the City" (1974) and "Classical Berlin. Berlin Sculptural Schools 800 -1300" (1978). In 1971, he became a member of the "Darmstadt Secession". Between 1972 and 1977, Grzimek designed the southern portal of the cloister church "Unserer Lieben Frau" in Magdeburg. In 1981, Grzimek won first prize in a competition to design a fountain at Wittenbergplatz in Berlin. Between 1981 and 1985, he executed a bronze and granite group with the architects Wolfgang Schuster, Hartmut Bonk, Fee Franck and Christian Höpfner. In 1984, Grzimek won the Bremer Sculpture Prize.
Waldemar Grzimek died in Berlin on May 26th 1984. He is buried in Dahlem cemetry in Berlin. In 1998/99, Galerie Eva Poll and the Galerie am Wasserturm held memorial exhibitions for the artist on his 80th birthday.