Barlach's Transcendent "Crippled Beggar"

M. Bogen, photo of Barlach's "Crippled Beggar," 2-14-15

I don't want to be in business of valorizing suffering, but I've long felt there was something noble or transcendent about this 1930 piece by Ernst Barlach called "Crippled Beggar," a treasured holding of the Harvard Art Museums. Rather than being weighed down by gravity he seems to be rising, maybe ready for release from physical constriction or maybe, by gazing inward, he has glimpsed the eternal dimensions of experience. This piece was prominently displayed in a public, non-gallery space at the pre-renovation Fogg Museum, and now, in the newly expanded and improved museum space (designed by Renzo Piano), it once again is prominently displayed, this time in the main courtyard. The curators must love the piece, too.

Yesterday was my first visit since the museums reopened in November after having been closed for a few years. It was good to get reacquainted with so many pieces that feel like old friends, since I have been visiting the Fogg since 1990. Architecturally, the interior is more successful than the exterior. One cool thing is the way it frames and directs your view of the neighboring buildings, including Le Corbusier's Carpenter Center, which is neatly juxtaposed in this view with the rear wall of the original Fogg. The visual experience extends way beyond the individual pieces of art. Bravo!


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