Bruton Museum - Ernst Blensdorf's Sculptures At Kings School

By Dawn Marshallsay Published: 02 July 2008

photo of a wooden sculpture of a woman with a child on her lap

Ernst Blensdorf, Abraham's Sacrifice. © Downside School

Exhibition Preview - Ernst Blensdorf 1896 - 1976 - a retrospective exhibition at Kings School, Bruton, Somerset, BA10 OEF until August 1 2008

Two hundred expressive works by Ernst Blensdorf have returned home to Bruton in Somerset, where the sculptor worked for 35 years after fleeing from Nazi Germany in 1935.

The largest collection of Blensdorf’s work ever to be publicly exhibited has been organised by Bruton Museum and opened by novelist and playwright Fay Weldon on July 4, at Kings School, Bruton, Somerset.

Working outside the mainstream of British sculpture, Blensdorf created a unique modern style utilising the swirling patterns of the Somerset elm from local woodland. Affordable and readily available, wood became the artist’s main medium.

photo of an abstract wooden sculpture of a person dancing

Ernst Blensdorf, Swing. Courtesy Bruton Museum

The retrospective exhibition traces Blensdorf’s artistic development, from his earlier 'totemic' style and monumental pieces, to the free-flowing near abstraction of his later work. Terracotta maquettes, ceramic pieces and sketches, many of which are previously unseen, record the artist’s development on individual sculptures.

Works on show range from 30 monumental wooden pieces of Blensdorf’s larger than life-size Abraham’s Sacrifice, to semi-abstract works like Dance Rhythm.

The stories behind Blensdorf sculptures are as passionate as the works themselves. After his studio was destroyed in the mid-thirties, the sculptor fled to Norway to develop his ambitions for a major international peace centre. His earlier war memorials reflect his determination to work for peace.

photo of an abstract wooden sculpture of a female figure dancing

Ernst Blensdorf, Nightclub Dancer 1962. Courtesy Bruton Museum

Blensdorf’s journey to England, unlike his sculptures, was far from smooth. After travelling on the last battleship to leave Norway in 1940, he was interned in the Isle of Man until moving to Bruton in 1941. Here he taught in existing and evacuee schools, and began his long and fruitful association with the local elm. Blensdorf actually started the art department at Kings School where the exhibition is being held.

Feeding his creative hunger till the end, Blensdorf poignantly sculpted the Last Work (also on display) from a victim of Dutch Elm Disease before his death in 1976.

The exhibition is being mounted by Bruton Museum and has been funded by an Awards for All Lottery grant, South Somerset District Council and Bruton Town Council.

This exhibition is taking place at Kings School, Bruton, Somerset, BA10 OEF. Open daily from 10.30am - 4.30pm, entrance is free and there is an illustrated full-colour catalogue.

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