‘Der Erste Mann vom Hochofen’ (‘First Man of the Blast Furnace’)
Bronze, 46 cm high. Two other casts (same size) are in the possession of the ‘Städtische Kunstsammlung Augsburg’ and the ‘Saarland Museum’ in Saarbrücken (depicted in the book ‘Fritz Kölle’, Rembrandt Verlag Berlin, 1939).
A large copy of 2,35 meter high, almost the same model (‘Der erste Mann am Hochofen’) was displayed at the GDK 1939, room 2, and at the Grosse Berliner Kunstausstellung 1940-1941. One of these large casts is in the possession of ‘Städtische Kunstsammlung Augsburg’, another one is owned by the ‘Hochschule für Technik und Wirtschaft’ (‘University of Applied Sciences’) in the city of Saarbrücken, previously known as ‘Staatliche Ingenieurschule’.
Fritz Kölle, ‘Der erste Mann vom Hochofen‘, Bronze, Height 46 cm. Displayed at the exhibition ‘Deutsche Bildhauer der Gegenwart‘, Kunsthalle, 1940, organised by the Kunstverein in Hamburg. Depicted in the official art catalogue.
Fritz Koelle, art print*, ‘Der erste Mann am Hochofen’ (over life-size model). Displayed in 1939 in the ‘Skulpturensaal’ of the Haus der Deutschen Kunst, Munich.
|– condition||: II|
|– size||: height 46 cm|
|– signed||: at foot ‘F. Koelle 1936’|
|– type||: bronze|
|– misc.||: created 1936|
Fritz Kölle and Hitler’s request for nude female sculptures
In an interview in his atelier with the Croatian writer Nada Kestercanek in 1944, Kölle said that Hitler had specifically asked him to create female sculptures. Two years later, in a letter dated May 28, 1946, Fritz Kölle wrote: ‘in 1940 I was visited by Giesler on special instructions of Adolf Hitler. I was promised large orders, but first I had to create a nude; after that, I would be allowed to sculpt workmen again. Thus I made a female-dancer (Spitzentänzerin). I thought they would like that, but no, I still had to produce a nude. Hence I made the platform-diver (Turmspringerin). Then I received orders again to create large sculptures of workmen…’ (‘Fritz Koelle, Leben und Werk’, 2011).
In the book ‘Adel der Arbeit, der Arbeiter in der Kunst der NS-Zeit‘, 1984, the son of Koelle writes at page 96: ‘…At the opening of the Great German Art Exhibition, I think it was in 1940, Hitler said to his companions, that the next year he did not want to see workers by Koelle anymore; instead he wanted Koelle to create a female nude. Shortly afterwards, Gauleiter Giesler and Robert Ley came to his atelier and notified him about the wish of the Führer….So my father created the ‘Spitzentänzerin’. However this girl was not naked, and thus not according to Hitler’s request. He made a second female sculpture which was not naked either. Both Gauleiters were greatly irritated… Then he made a third sculpture, -again not naked…. However the wish of the Führer had to be fulfilled, and finally he created the naked ‘Turmspringerin’…. By that time the Gestapo already checked his atelier, his administration and the progress of his work’.
This was the reason why Spitzentänzerin (1941), Turmspringerin (1941), Balletttänzerin (1943) and Tänzerin Nika (1943) came into existence. From 1940 to 1944, Kölle often went to the Munich Prinzregenten Theatre, where he was inspired especially by the dancers Nika Nilanowa-Sanftleben and Else Högenäuer. Else Högenäuer frequently stood as a model in his atelier for the sculpture Spitzentänzerin (GDK 1942 room 31).
At the end of 1953, shortly after Kölle’s death, a bronze was cast from Spitzentänzerin and bought by the director of MAN in Augsburg. Kölle’s son allowed an after-cast in bronze of Ballettänzerin to be made, which has stood in Grünwald since 1975 (from 1975 onwards, many large bronzes by Kölle -owned by the Städtische Sammlungen Augsburg- were given on loan to other German cities and villages). Tänzerin Nika was also cast in bronze and placed in Strasslach.
The following is an overview of all casts of these four female sculptures (excluding the two from German Art Gallery):
Spitzentänzerin: 1 bronze cast in Grünwald, another bronze cast is privately owned.
Ballettänzerin: 1 bronze cast in Grünwald. Plaster model in possession of the city of Augsburg.
Tänzerin Nika: 1 bronze cast in Strasslach.
Turmspringerin: no other bronze cast is known. Plaster model in possession of the Lenbachhaus, Munich.
Fritz Kölle, ‘Der erste Mann am Hochofen’, created 1937, height 2.25 meter.
One cast is in the possession of ‘Städtische Kunstsammlung Augsburg’, another cast is owned by the ‘Hochschule für Technik und Wirtschaft’ (‘University of Applied Sciences’) in the city of Saarbrücken (previously known as ‘Staatliche Ingenieurschule’).
Below: ‘Der erste Mann am Hochofen’ located in front of the ‘Staatliche Ingenieurschule’ (1962 – 1982).
Left: ‘Der erste Mann am Hochofen’ by Koelle, located at the grounds of the ‘Hochschule für Technik und Wirtschaft’, city of Saarbrücken.
Right: ‘Der erste Mann am Hochofen’ by Koelle, depicted on the website of the university of Applied Sciences’, city of Saarbrücken.
‘Der erste Mann am Hochofen’ by Koelle, displayed in 1940 at the ‘Grosse Berliner Kunstausstellung’, Haus der Kunst, Hardenbergstrasse, Berlin. Depicted in ‘Arts of the Third Reich’, by Peter Adam.
Fritz Kölle, ‘Adler’ (‘Eagle’), 1937, at the façade of the Reichspostministerium in Berlin. Breadth 8 meters.
Fritz Koele, ‘Spitzentänzerin’ (‘Toe-dancer’), located in Grünwald, Munich. GDK 1942, room 31. Foto: November, 2015. The Prima Ballerina Else Högenauer -from the Prinzregententheather- stood model for the sculpture.
Left: Fritz Koelle, postcard*, ‘Der Bergmann von der Sahr’ (‘Miner from the Sahr’), 1927. Statue placed in front of the Nationalgalerie in Berlin, 175 cm high. A cast was also displayed at the GDK 1940, room 12. Bought by Gauleiter of Bavaria, Adolf Wagner, for 15.000 RM.
Right: Fritz Koelle, art print*, ‘Hochofenarbeiter’ (‘Blast-furnace Worker’), 1935, also named ‘Der Erste Mann vom Hochofen’. Size: 2 meters high. GDK 1941, room 40.
Left: Fritz Koelle, ‘Der Walzmeister’ (‘The Rollerman’), located in St. Ingberg (near Saarbrücken). Displayed at the GDK 1940, room 2, with the name ‘Der erste Mann vom Blockwalzwerk’ (‘First Man of the Blooming Mill’).
Right: ‘Der Walzmeister’, depicted in the ‘Salzburger Volksblatt’, 15 August 1940.
Fritz Koelle, ‘Der Blockwalzer’ (‘Blooming Mill Worker’), 1929, Munich. Melted down by the City of Munich as ‘degenerate art’ in 1933, and re-erected in 1976. Foto: November, 2015.
‘Der Blockwalzer‘ still existing in 1940?
These pictures come from ‘Baugilde, Zeitschrift für die deutschen Architekten‘, 1940, Heft 16. Clearly, the house of Fritz Kölle in Münich is depicted, and in the garden we see a cast of ‘Der Blockwalzer‘. The question is whether this was another cast, or whether this was the original cast from 1929 (in that case it had not been melted down by the Nazis).
Fritz Kölle, Medal issued on the occasion of the reunification of the Saarland, 1935.
After the end of World War I, the Saar territory was separated from Germany and administered by the League of Nations. During this time, France was given control of the Saar’s coal mines. After 15 years of League of Nations administration, a referendum on territorial status was held in the Territory of the Saar Basin on 13 January 1935. Over 90% voters opted for reunification with Germany, with 9% voting for the status quo as a League of Nations mandate territory and less than 0.5% opting for unification with France.
Fritz Koelle, ‘Der Isarflößer’ (‘Isar-‘Rafter’), 1938, München (Thalkirchen). Height: 360 cm (excluding pedestral). A smaller copy of 220 cm high was displayed at the GDK 1940, room 12 and at the 1937 Münchener Jahresausstellung, Neue Pinakothek. Also displayed -and depicted in the official art catalogue- at the exhibition ‘NS.-Gemeinschaft KRAFT DURCH FREUDE’, Kunsthalle Hamburg, 1938, organized in co-operation with Amt Rosenberg. Depicted in ‘Die Kunst im Deutschen Reich’, 1938. Foto: November, 2015.
‘Der Isarflösser‘, ‘Der Erste Mann vom Block’, ‘Der Walzmeister‘ and ‘Der Bergmann’ at the GDK 1940, shown in ‘Die Deutsche Wochendschau, at 7 August 1940.
Die Deutsche Wochenschau, 7 August 1940, nr. 518 (at 3.18)
Left: Fritz Kölle, ‘Der Bergman‘, 1930. Displayed at the ‘Münchener Kunstausstellung’, Kunstpalast Düsseldorf, 1932. Located in the ‘Fritz Kölle Strasse’, Augsburg.
Right: Fritz Kölle, ‘Eisenhüttenmann’, located in Mannheim/ Neckarstadt-West. Lifesize. Photo 2012.
Left: Fritz Kölle, ‘Betender Bergmann’ (‘Praying Miner’), 1943. Also placed in the Fritz Kölle strasse. Height: 2 meters. Depicted in ‘Die Kunst im Deutschen Reich’, 1938. Displayed at the exhibition ‘NS.-Gemeinschaft KRAFT DURCH FREUDE’, Kunsthalle Hamburg, 1938, organized in co-operation with Amt Rosenberg.
A copy was in the possession of Adolf Hitler who placed it in front of his study in the Neue Reichskanzlei. Nowadays the sculpture is owned by the German Historical Museum, Berlin.
Right: Fritz Kölle, a cast of ‘Betender Bergmann’ was displayed under the name ‘Modlacy sie Gornic’ at the exhibition ‘Deutsche Bildhauer der Gegenwart’, 1938, Krakow. Depicted in the exhibition catalogue.
Fritz Kölle, ‘Tänzerin Nika’, modelled in 1943 (cast after 1945). Height 160 cm, located in Strasslach. Depicted is the Russian dancer Nika Nilanowa-Sanftleben. Photos: October 2019.
Fritz Kölle, ‘Der Bergmann‘, 1938. Located in front of the ‘Zechengebäude’ in Landsweiler-Reden, Schiffweiler. Commissioned by the ‘Bergwerksdirektion Saarbrücken’ (after a visit from goring in 1935). Height 3 meters, excluding sockel.
Fritz Kölle, ‘Hockenden Bergmann‘, 1929. Located at the inner courtyard of the Münchener Gewerkschaftshaus, Ludwigsvorstadt, Munich. Displayed at the exhibition ‘Junge Kunst im Deutschen Reich’, 1943, Wien (‘Veranstaltet vom Reichsstatthalter in Wien, Reichsleiter Baldur von Schirach’).
Fritz Koelle, ‘Spiel der Wellen’ (‘Play of the Waves’). Shell-lime sculpture of a sitting girl, commissioned by the City of Munich, 1921. Located at the Reichenbach-Bridge, Munich. Foto: November, 2015.
Left Fritz Kölle, ‘Der hockende Bergmann‘ (‘Hunkering Mine-worker‘), created 1929. Bronze, GDK 1941 room 40. Located at the alte Kirchplatz in the city of Neusäss, near Augsburg.
Right: Fritz Kölle, ‘Bergmannskind von der Saar mit Kohlen in der Schürze‘ (‘Child of miner with coal in apron‘). Located before the kindergarten in the city of Neusäss.
Both sculptures are on permanent loan from the Städtische Kunstsammlungen Augsburg.
Fritz Kölle, ‘Bergarbeiter’ (‘Mine-worker’). Depicted in ‘Velhagen & Klasings Monatshefte’, 1929/30.
Horst Wessel by Fritz Kölle in the Führermuseum
The Führermuseum, or ‘Linz art gallery’, was an unrealized art museum planned by Adolf Hitler for his hometown, the Austrian city of Linz, near his birthplace of Braunau. Its purpose was to display a selection of the art bought, confiscated or stolen by the Nazis from throughout Europe during World War II. The overall plan was to turn Linz into one of the greatest art centers of Europe, overshadowing Vienna. Hitler personally favored German and Austrian paintings from the 19th century, but the collection also contained many early German, Dutch, French, and Italian paintings. The collection, when it was whole, included 4,731 pieces, not just paintings but also tapestries, sculpture, furniture and porcelain. Beginning in February 1944, the artworks were relocated to the 14th-century Steinberg salt mines above the village of Altausee, in which the holdings of various Viennese museums had earlier been transferred. The bust of Horst Wessel by Fritz Kölle was part of the collection of the Führermuseum, which was quite extraordinary, as the collection hardly contained works of contemporary art.
Fritz Kölle, ‘Bust of Horst Wessel‘, 1936. At least four casts are known to exist.
Left: the bust of Horst Wessel which probably was part of the collection of the Führermuseum; this bust is in the possession of the German Historical Museum.
Right: Fritz Kölle, ‘Horst Wessel‘, created 1936. Displayed in 2017 at the exhibition ‘Berlin 1937 – im Schatten von Morgen‘, Märkischen Museum, Berlin.
One cast was depicted in ‘Die Kunst im Deutschen Reich’, 1940.
Monastery of Hohenfurt (Vyssi Brod), Czech Republic
At the end of WWII, several stolen art collections -and 46 paintings and 30 statues from Hitler’s private contemporary art collection- were hidden by the National Socialists in the Monastery of Hohenfurt (Vyssi Brod), near Linz in the Czech Republic. After the war, valuable art, such as pieces from the Mannheimer- and Rothschild collections, were confiscated by the U.S. Army and taken to the Munich Central Collection Point in an effort to return them to their original owners. Many less valuable works, like contemporary German Nazi-art works, were left behind after the 1945 liberation of Czechoslovakia and ended up scattered across the country.
The bust of Horst Wessel by Fritz Kölle was one of the 30 sculptures in the Monastery of Hohenfurt.
In 2012 sixteen paintings by German artists -that Adolf Hitler personally purchased during WWII- were found in various Czech institutions. Seven were discovered in the Zákupy Chateau, the site where items from confiscated castles, chateaus and private houses were gathered after the war. Seven other canvases were found at the convent of Premonstratensian Sisters in Doksany, near Prague. Two paintings were found at the Military Institute in Prague and at the Faculty of Law of Charles University in Prague. All the sixteen paintings are now in the possession of the ‘Czech National Institute for the Protection and Conservation of Monuments and Sites’. They will remain in the Czech Republic.
Left: bust of ‘Horst Wessel’, by Fritz Kölle, as it was found in 1945 in the Czech Republic (Monastery of Hohenfurt). This was likley the bust of Horst Wessel which was destinated for the Führermuseum (photo: ‘Hitlerova Sbirka v Cechach’, by Jiri Kuchar).
Right: a bust of Horst Wessel by Koelle, sold by a German auction house in 2019. Height 43 cm, signed ‘F. KOELLE 1936’.
Friedrich List or Max Reger in the Walhalla?
In 1948 Fritz Kölle was commissioned by the Bavarian Ministry of Culture to create a bust of the leading 19th-century German-American economist Friedrich List. The bust was destined to be placed in the Regensburger Walhalla Memorial, the Hall of Fame that honors laudable and distinguished German politicians, sovereigns, scientists and artists. The neo-classical building above the Danube River, built between 1830 and 1842, displays some 65 plaques and 130 busts covering 2,000 years of history.
Kölle produced a plaster model which was approved by the Director of the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen. However, before he created the model in marble, a debate started about his role in the Third Reich, and hence his contract was canceled.
Under time pressure, the decision was made to place a bust of Max Reger in the Walhalla, instead of Friedrich List. In the Munich atelier of Georg Müller, a pre-war plaster bust of Max Reger was found. Müller used this as a model to create a marble bust, which was placed nine months later in the Walhalla. Georg Müller had previously used the same plaster bust as an original model for the bronze bust of Max Reger. That bronze bust had been displayed in 1931 in the Glaspalast, in 1935 in the Neue Pinakothek, in 1937 at the Great German Art Exhibition and in 1940 at the XXII Bienalle in Vienna. The bronze Reger bust is currently in the possession of the Bayerischen Staatsgemäldesammlungen (apparently with traces of the Glaspalast fire); the marble Reger still has its place in the Regensburger Hall of Fame.
Up until now, a bust of Friedrich List has never been placed in the Walhalla.
Fritz Koelle, belonging to the first rank of German sculptors
Fritz Koelle (1895 – 1953), born the son of a factory worker in Augsburg, studied from 1909 to 1912 at the ‘Stättische Handwerkerschule’ in Augsburg and at the ‘Fachschule für Edelmetall-Industrie’ in Schwäbisch Hall (Baden-Württemberg). From 1913 to 1914 he went to the ‘Staatsschule für angewandte Kunst’ in Munich. In 1914, at the age of only 19, his first work was displayed in the Munich Glaspalast. Koelle volunteered for military service from 1914 to 1917 and was decorated several times. In 1916 the King of Bavaria, Ludwig III von Bayern (1845-1921), bought his sculpture ‘Löwen mit den drei Kugeln’ (‘Lions’). A year later the City of Munich bought a nude by Koelle. Most of his sculptures, however, were mine- and blast-furnace workers (Koelle, who’s father-in-law was a mine-worker, spent quite a lot of time together with the workers in the mines and factories). From 1917 to 1923 he studied at the Art Academy of Munich. In 1920 Koelle took part in the art exhibition of the ‘Münchener Neuen Sezession’. Commissioned by the City of Munich, he created for the Reichenbach-Bridge a shell-lime sculpture of a sitting girl, named ‘Spiel der Wellen’. In 1922 he participated in the art exhibition of the ‘Münchner Kunstverein’; in 1927 in the exhibition of the ‘Preußischen Akademie der Künste’. Shortly thereafter, the Berliner Nationalgalerie purchased his sculpture ‘Bergmann vor der Einfahrt’ and the City of Munich erected a state atelier for him. In 1928 Koelle created the bust ‘Der Walzmeister’, two years later his sculpture ‘Der Blockwalzer’ was placed at the Melusinenplatz (today: Karl-Preis-Platz) in Munich.
Also in 1928, he was represented at the XVI Biennale in Venice with the works: ‘Autoritratto’ (‘selfportrait’), ‘Testa d’operaio’ (‘Head of a Worker’) and ‘Operatio in piedi’ (‘Standing Worker’). In 1933, after the National Socialists took power, Koelle was put under surveillance and his professorship in Munich was rejected. After the NSDAP deemed Koelle’s sculpture ‘Der Blockwalzer’ to be ‘Bolschewistischer Kunstauffassung’ (degenerate art ), the City of Munich decided to melt it down. In 1934 Koelle spent nine days in a cell of the Gestapo; the City of Munich wanted to send him to concentration camp Dachau. Nevertheless, somewhat later in 1934 Koelle was allowed to continue his work and he created the ‘Betender Bergmann’, which later came into the possession of Hitler (on display at the Reichskanzlei).
A turning point in Koelle’s career was probably 1935: in connection with the Saar Referendum on 13 January 1935, Kölle had been commisioned to design a Saar-Gedenkprägung (Saar Memorial Medal) for the Bayerischen Hauptmünzamt (Bavarian State Mint). This was his first work with a national socialistic theme and probably an attempt to survive.
In 1936 Koelle was commissioned works by the City of Berlin; in the same year he created a bust of Nazi Party activist and SA-Sturmführer Horst Wessel, a martyr of the Nazi movement after his violent death in 1930. Again in 1936, he was represented at the exhibition ‘Lob der Arbeit’ (‘In Praise of Work’)’, organised by the NS-Kulturgemeinde, Berlin. For a short period Koelle travelled to London, but decided to go back to Germany. In 1937 Koelle created for the façade of the Reichspostministerium a huge 8-meter-wide eagle holding a swastika. In the same year he was represented with 4 works at the exhibition ‘NS.-Gemeinschaft KRAFT DURCH FREUDE’, Kunsthalle Hamburg, 1938, organized in co-operation with Amt Rosenberg.
In an interview in his atelier with the Croatian writer Nada Kestercanek in 1944, Kölle said that Hitler had specifically asked him to create female sculptures. Two years later, in a letter dated May 28, 1946, Fritz Kölle wrote: ‘in 1940 I was visited by Hermann Giesler on special instructions of Adolf Hitler (Giesler was, after Albert Speer, Hitler’s favorite architect). I was promised large orders, but first I had to create a nude; after that, I would be allowed to sculpt workmen again. Thus I made a female-dancer (Spitzentänzerin). I thought they would like that, but no, I still had to produce a nude. Hence I made the platform-diver (Turmspringerin). Then I received orders to create large sculptures of workmen…’ This was the reason why Spitzentänzerin (1941), Turmspringerin (1941), Balletttänzerin (1943) and Tänzerin Nika (1943) came into existence.
At the Great German Art Exhibitions Koelle was represented with 43 works, even more than Arno Breker (42). Famous works were ‘Der erste Mann am Hochofen’, ‘Der Schmied’, ‘Der erste Mann vom Blockwalzwerk’, ‘Der Bergmann’, ‘Der Isarflöter’, ‘Der Walzmeister’, ‘Bildnis Horst Wessel’ and ‘Der Bauarbeiter’. Prices went up to 15,000 RM. Hitler bought the bust of Horst Wessel, which is now in the possession of the Deutsches Historisches Museum. Hitler also bought ‘Betende Bergmann’ (‘Praying Miner’) which he placed in front of his study in the Neue Reichskanzlei (also owned by the German Historical Museum). ‘Der Bergmann’ was bought by the state of Bavaria at the GDK: it became an official gift, as the city of Munich presented it to Gauleiter Adolf Wagner on the occasion of his 50th birthday.
In 1946 Koelle created on the grounds of concentration camp Dachau the memorial ‘Inferno’. At the same time, because of his role earlier, he was rejected a job at the Munich Academy. In 1949 Koelle was appointed as professor at the ‘Staatliche Kunsthochschule’ in Dresden and in 1950 as professor at the ‘Hochschule für angewandte Kunst’ in Berlin. From 1951 onwards he designed seven sculptures for Humboldt University in Berlin. Fritz Koelle died on a train from Munich to Berlin in 1953.
In 1976 his sculpture ‘Der Blockwalzer’ was re-erected at the Karl-Preis-Platz in Munich. Works of Frits Koelle are in the possession of the following museums: Deutsches Historisches Museum, Nationalgalerie Berlin, Germansiches Nationalmuseum Nürnberg, Städtische Galerie Leipzig, Wallraf-Richartz-Museum Köln, Saarlandmuseum Saarbrücken, Städel-Museum Frankfurt, Staatsgalerie München, Museum Homburg, Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, Deutsche Museum München, Städtische Kunstsammlung Augsburg, Städtische Galerie Munster, Staatliches Lindenau-Museum Altenburg, Deutsches Bergbau Museum, Museum Folkwang Essen, Sammlung Dr. Rudolf Schwarz. The Cities of München, Nürnberg, Augsburg and St. Ingberg also have sculptures by Fritz Koelle in their possession.
The Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlung holds four works by Kölle, including ‘Hüttenarbeiter’, ‘portrait Fritz Hahner’ and two self-portraits.
* As also stated in our General Terms and Conditions, German Art Gallery offers the depicted postcards (and original art prints) for sale. Almost all of the postcards are ‘Haus der Deutschen Kunst’ editions. Prices are available upon request.