History of Bavaria: childhood memories of the sculptor Hans Wimmer – Bavaria

A good hundred years ago, the caretaker of the Griesbach elementary school had the reputation of being a fearsome person of respect. This verdict is unchallengeable, since the sculptor Hans Wimmer recorded the events of his school days in writing. “We boxed and pushed through the gate to the stone stairs, from where we turned into gentle little lambs, because the eye of the law rested on us,” writes Wimmer. The law was embodied by this caretaker, who also worked as a police sergeant. Wimmer describes him as having a “brooding, dark-eyed nature”, which, however, could not prevent the boy from remembering his school years there as beautiful. Because: “I also realized with satisfaction that three apples are more than two and that if you take two of them away, you only have one left.”

The sculptor Hans Wimmer (here a photo from 1983) received many honors. Among other things, he was a member of the order “Pour le mérite” for science and art.

(Photo: Ulrich Wienke/Bundesarchiv)

Hans Wimmer, one of the most important German sculptors of the 20th century, initially dedicated his memories only to his children and grandchildren. The blessing that the text was ultimately published as a book is all the greater. The slim volume was published by Piper 40 years ago, the title is simply “Lower Bavarian Childhood and Youth”. Although the work only comprises 76 pages, it is a pearl, because Wimmer not only knew how to express himself masterfully as an artist, but also in the smiling irony of the Rottal language tradition.

Already in the first chapter this art is perfectly expressed. His gift of describing people with the sculptor’s keen eye and modeling them with words is remarkable. He describes the prefect of a monastery as “a racy English lady, a self-contained appearance, somewhat wider than tall. Her cheeks bulged out of a blossom-white, cleanly starched cheek armor, the face was determined by the two gentle heights of the cheeks, by the two lower heights right and left of the chin dimple as well as by padding, which embedded two firm cherry eyes”.

So he had piano lessons with this lady, and he hardly ever got a chance because the Prefectess knew a Miss Mager who used to frequent the court and never forgot what she owed to this legend. “They played four-handed,” writes Wimmer, who did not miss his straight gaze, “as the gouty bones of one competed with the soft sausages of the other.”

His grandfather didn’t get much further “when his plow led him”

With great sovereignty, Wimmer gives the cliffs of childhood and the absurdities of a stubborn society in retrospect a just meaning. His grandfather shaped him, a figure that seems almost fairytale-like today. He draws him as a gaunt man with water-light eyes and a hooked nose that was stern in his face. “The sparse mouth seldom opens to a word, in all his life he did not get much further than his plow led him.”

A world appears here that is hardly imaginable anymore, which was rough and insensitive on the one hand, and whose calm and simplicity on the other hand forms a counterpoint to the over-excited present that is longed for today. Many sensual experiences enabled Wimmer to feel the essentials of rural life and later to express this knowledge and ancestors in pictures in connection with the knowledge from humanism, philosophy and ancient world understanding.

Hans Wimmer: "The charioteer" is the name of this bronze figure by Hans Wimmer, which can currently be seen in an exhibition in Triftern.  Works by Wimmer's sculptor friends Gerhard Marcks and Helmut Heinze are also on display there.

“The Charioteer” is the name of this bronze figure by Hans Wimmer, which can currently be seen in an exhibition in Triftern. Works by Wimmer’s sculptor friends Gerhard Marcks and Helmut Heinze are also on display there.

(Photo: Sebastian Beck)

The tension in life even comes to light when Wimmer is looking after the pigs with his friend Karl. “Lying on our backs, feet crossed, straw in mouth, we indulged in idleness,” he writes. “We thought that the devil could take the teacher if he ever had the time.” In their meditation, the boys came to the modern realization that the entire regiment of this world needed revision. Which also meant that “the dirndls are so stupid and that you might have to do them more often”. Non-violence was not yet an ideal, not even when digging up rats’ nests. The animals were bitterly tortured, which in retrospect makes Wimmer wonder: “What is it about the cruelty of the children?”

Then again the limitless idyll of the Rottal landscape. “One had to think that luck must have been at home here, if anywhere.” But it was also a world where small children’s hands were trained to do hard work. He doesn’t know whether his grandfather ever went to school, writes Wimmer, who derives the following conclusion: “Incidentally, the times of the illiterate were by no means cultureless times like ours, when every fool has his doctorate.”

As a young man, Wimmer found his calling in the Munich State Gallery, where he was fascinated by a bust created by Bernhard Bleeker. From then on it was clear: “I don’t want to be painted but something other than a sculptor.”

Hans Wimmer (1907-1992) was an important German sculptor. His sculptures stand for a clear, objective representation in sculpture. From 1929 to 1935, Wimmer was a student of Bernhard Bleeker at the Munich Art Academy. He only became known after the war because he had turned down appointments that would have required joining the NSDAP. From 1949 to 1974 he taught at the Nuremberg Academy. Wimmer created, among other things, the memorial in Munich’s northern cemetery, the Richard Strauss fountain in the pedestrian zone and the Rottaler Ross, a bronze sculpture that he gave to his hometown of Pfarrkirchen in 1966. His works can be seen in squares and public buildings at home and abroad. He bequeathed a large part of his works to the city of Passau, which set up a Wimmer collection in the Oberhausmuseum in 1987. An exhibition is currently being shown in the Stadl der Alten Post in Triftern, in which important sculptures by Wimmer can also be seen.

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