Elkan, Benno

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ELKAN, BENNO (1877–1960), sculptor and graphic artist. Elkan was born in Dortmund, and studied art in Munich and Karlsruhe. He became a very versatile artist and could not decide whether to work as painter or sculptor. But after he had finished The Walking (1904, Ostenfriedhof Dordmund) he decided to specialize in sculpture. In 1905 he went to Paris where he taught himself sculpture. There he became acquainted with Paul Albert Bartholomé, whose monumental sepulcher in the Pére-Lachaise cemetery greatly influenced Elkan. A year after his marriage to Hedwig Einstein in 1907, the couple went to Rome for three years, where he immersed himself in the art of the Renaissance. In 1911 he returned to Germany where he executed a large number of stone tombstones decorated with bronze statues, and several large sculptures in colored stone. Among the busts he carved is a bronze mask of Jules Pascin (1906, Hamburger Kunsthalle), and busts of Truebner (1911, Ursula Hammil, Beverly Hills, U.S.), Alfred Flechtheim (1912, Stadtmuseum Düsseldorf), and Rathenau (1925, Museum am Ostwall Dortmund). Elkan's bas-relief portrait medals capture elements of chiaroscuro. In World War i, Elkan enlisted but was released after a bout of cholera. Elkan settled in Frankfurt for 15 years and had a profound impact on local cultural life. He published his war experiences (Polnische Nachtstuecke) as lithographs in 1918. The medals and busts created by Elkan are to be found in all the important museums of Europe. His most outstanding works in Germany were the freedom monument in Mainz (Erwachende, 1930, granite, about 17 ft., 4.5 meters, high) which was destroyed during World War ii, and the memorial to the victims of war, erected in Frankfurt, which the Nazis removed in 1933, but which was restored in 1946.

In 1933 Elkan settled in London, spending the war years in Oxford. He modelled portraits of Lord Keynes, Winston Churchill, Lord Samuel, James de Rothschild, Claude Montefiore, Chaim Weizmann (on his 75th birthday), and Chief Rabbi J.H. Hertz. He created large bronze candelabra engraved with biblical figures for King's College (1934), Cambridge, New College, Oxford (Verkündigung, 1938), and several churches. His twin candelabra (Old Testament, 1931; New Testament, 1942, 2 × 2 meters) in Westminster Abbey depict 24 groups of figures from the Bible. Elkan's monumental bronze seven-branched candelabra (1956) decorated with biblical scenes was presented by members of the British Parliament to the Israel Knesset.


F. Hofmann and Peter Schmieder, Benno Elkan. Ein juedischer Kuenstler aus Dortmund (1997); H. Menzel-Severing, Benno Elkan (1980); idem, "Benno Elkan – ein künstlerischer Kosmopolit aus dem Ruhrgebiet," in: J.-P. Barbian, M. Brocke, L. Heid (eds.), Juden im Ruhrgebiet. Vom Zeitalter der Aufklärung bis in die Gegenwart.(1999), 133–53.

[Sonja Beyer (2nd ed.)]

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Elkan, Benno

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