Set for eternity

Hermann Noack represents the fourth generation in a row to head up his family‘s art foundry. Many of the bronze sculptures made in his workshop have shaped the history of art

Hermann Noack © Bildgießerei Hermann Noack GmbH + Co. KG

Guests entering the corridor on their way to the workshops of the Kunstgießerei Noack (Noack Art Foundry) will encounter artefacts testifying to the company’s long success story. For example, a stocky bronze figure with raised arms stands across from a naked youth, also in bronze; the former was taken from a Prussian Trakehner breeding farm, and the latter is from Berlin’s Olympic Stadium. Both were returned to the workshop in which they were created, and both survived for decades unscathed. They will most likely survive the upcoming centuries as well. Indeed, the bronze they are made of is tenacious and forbearing. Perhaps it’s precisely this ability to defy the march of time that characterises bronze casters like the Noacks. Hermann Noack Jr. took over the company from his father, just as the later took over from his father, whose own father, in turn, founded the foundry in 1897. Today, 120 years later – after spanning several eras in which monarchies, democracies and dictatorships emerged and collapsed around them – the Noacks continue to pour bronzes designed to last for an eternity. This is where Käthe Kollwitz had her Mother with Dead Son made; today, that sculpture can be found in the Neue Wache on Unter den Linden in Berlin. The new cast of the Quadriga on top of the Brandenburg Gate is also the Noacks’ work. The Large Two Forms by Henry Moore in front of the old federal chancellery building in Bonn, too. The list is long and includes such artists as Barlach, Schmidt-Rottluff, Schlemmer, Kiefer, Meese and Craig.

“It’s a Baselitz”, says Noack, glancing casually at a bronze sculpture of girl with a hula hoop. Only when specifically asked does the 51-year-old provide information on a piece, preferring instead not to flaunt the big names. However, one does detect a hint of pride when he speaks of particularly difficult jobs, that is, of sculptures that require careful chiselling with a steady hand and a practiced eye to live up to the artist’s demands.

On a tour of the workshops, Noack tramps through thick layers of the powdery gypsum generated during production. The workshops comprise 4,100 square metres and are filled with ovens, lathes and semi-finished forms and figures. Noack had the foundry built in 2010 on the banks of the Spree River, and most recently expanded the space and rented some of it out. He is currently setting up one large area as a showroom: “I’m an art caster, so I know business goes up and down”, he says. “It never hurts to have a secondary means of support”. To create bronze casts weighing a total of 30 tonnes each year, Noack relies on a team of 35, some with unusual titles, such as engraver, sand moulder and foundry technician. Noack himself grew up amid plaster and bronze, trained to be a sand moulder and later became a master foundry technician. Noack doesn’t discuss his relationship to the artworks that leave his workshop: “I’m a craftsman and nothing more”, he says. And yet, he does have one favourite, a bronze elephant with two girls on its back. The sculpture is in his office and was made by his wife, who is herself an artist. The two girls on the elephant are his daughters. In other words, the next generation of the Noack dynasty.

Michael Sellge
Kluge Köpfe 2017