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Anatol Herzfeld, 2018. Photo: Stiftung Insel Hombroich.

Anatol Herzfeld (1931–2019)

German sculptor and mixed-media artist Anatol Herzfeld died at the age of eighty-eight on Friday, May 10, reports Monopol. His passing was confirmed by the Museum Insel Hombroich in the North Rhine-Westphalia. Founded by the artist’s close friend, the late Karl-Heinrich Müller, the historic site, which comprises the museum and a surrounding park, is home to many of Herzfeld’s works. For three decades, the artist went to Museum Island nearly every day to create work in his studio, a repurposed barn located on the grounds.

Born Karl-Heinz Herzfeld on January 21, 1931 in Insterburg, East Prussia—which is now Chernyakhovsk, Russia—Herzfeld, who went by the name Anatol, settled in the Rhineland after the Germans were expelled from his hometown in the aftermath of World War II. He trained to become a blacksmith and began working as a traffic cop before he decided to pursue art.

From 1964 to 1972, Herzfeld studied sculpture at the Academy of the Arts in Düsseldorf under the tutelage of Joseph Beuys, who would become a frequent collaborator. In 1973, Herzfeld famously participated in the performance The Homecoming of Joseph Beuys, for which he created a canoe from a single piece of wood that carried both artists from Oberkassel across the Rhine River to the academy. The action followed Beuys’s dismissal from the school over his call for reforms and was one of many student protests, which—after a six-year battle—led to his reinstatement.

The year before, Herzfeld made his Documenta debut—his work would be featured in the exhibition a total of three times. In 1977, he made Dreamship Aunt Olga for the sixth edition of the quinquennial. Made from polyester, wood, and wire, the work was meant to evoke a child’s sailboat made of folded paper. It was later donated to the Heinrich-Schütz School.

Herzfeld also cofounded the artists’ association known as the Freie Akademie Oldenburg, which was modeled after Beuys’s Freie Internationale Universität. In 1982, he began working at Museum Island. Today, his many wood, stone, and iron sculptures, as well as his paintings, can be found in its collection, along with works by Hans Arp, Marcel Breuer, Alberto Giacometti, Yves Klein, and Henri Matisse. In 1991, he was awarded the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, and in 1992, he received the Lovis Corinth Prize.