Myths, Curious Incidents and Obstacles—Becoming an Artist in Portugal. The Early Career of German Sculptor Hein Semke

  • The Hamburg native Hein Semke (1899-1995) travelled to Portugal for the first time in 1929. Inspired by his stay, he decided to study arts. In 1932, he returned to Lisbon, where he started his career as an artist and developed into a solid parameter in the country’s art scene: as Expressionist sculptor and ceramic artist, he participated in almost all important art exhibitions until 1975. Concurrently with Semke’s relocation, major changes in both countries were taking place and, in each case, the situation of Modern Art was precarious. In Portugal, António de Oliveira Salazar (1889-1970) established the corporatist authoritarian right-wing regime of Estado Novo. Artists revolted after years of suffering from declining sales figures due to the severe financial crisis affecting the country. In Germany, Adolf Hitler's (1889-945) Nazi Party gained power, and, since 1933, the Reichskammer der Bildenden Künste restricted artistic freedom by implementing an ideological selection. Despite this situation, Semke was included into a major project: the design of a Commemorative Courtyard at the newly built German Protestant Church in Lisbon. When the influence of the recently elected German authorities reached out for the German community of Portugal, Semke lost the support of his patrons and found his work in a bitter controversy, resulting in the removal of one of his sculptures. In my Ph.D. thesis, I examine the life and career of the Hein Semke, with a main focus on the years between 1899 and 1960. The difficulties the artist had to face in the early years of Estado Novo are evaluated in detail, as well as the legal situation for foreigners in the 1930s and 1940s. Moreover, the in-depth analysis of the controversy around Semke’s artistic work for the German Protestant Church in Lisbon, the artist’s selfconcept and his self-created image stand in the center of attention of this examination and offer a multi-layered discussion reflecting the zeitgeist of the era.

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Publishing Institution:IRC-Library, Information Resource Center der Jacobs University Bremen
Granting Institution:Jacobs Univ.
Author:Nina Blum de Almeida
Referee:Isabel Wünsche, Corinna Unger, Lúcia Almeida Matos
Advisor:Isabel Wünsche
Persistent Identifier (URN):urn:nbn:de:gbv:579-opus-1009019
Document Type:PhD Thesis
Date of Successful Oral Defense:2018/12/18
Date of First Publication:2019/12/19
Academic Department:Social Sciences & Humanities
PhD Degree:History and Theory of Art
Focus Area:Diversity
Other Countries Involved:Italy
Call No:2018/14

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