Akt mit Tuch (Nude with towel) displays the mastery of Christoph Voll’s carving and the sensitivity and sensuality of his touch. Born in Munich in 1897, the son of sculptor Roman Voll and painter Augusta Felicitas, Voll suffered a stern childhood. After the death of his father, his mother would often leave him in orphanages to be raised by nuns, the effect of which can be seen in his early work, which addresses these primary experiences. One can also see, in the present work, an element of the devotional in his idealised classical female figure, who although is nude exudes a purity, which can be affiliated with the Virgin Mary.
Although Voll expressed an artistic flair in the orphanages it was not until he moved to Dresden in 1911 that he began his training as a sculptor, gaining an apprenticeship with the sculptor Albert Starke. With the outbreak of the First World War, Voll joined the army, where he served for four years, being awarded the Iron Cross. After the war Voll enrolled in the Kunstgewerbeschule and later joined the Dresdner Sezesionsgruppe 1919, of which Otto Dix, Conrad Felixmülle and Otto Schubert were a part. Through this group Voll was to receive important commissions and was to meet his wife Danish painter Erna Sørensen, through her tutor Oska Kokoschka, who was an honoury member.
Voll participated in countless exhibitions in the 1920s finding increasing recognition, winning the professorial post in plastic arts at the newly founded Schule für Kunst und Handwerk in Saarbrucken. In 1926 Voll participated in the International Art Fair of Dresden, where he exhibited three wooden carved sculptures, to critical acclaim. This led to solo exhibitions at Galerie Neumann & Nierendorf in Berlin in 1927, and other such opportunities.
This period of artistic productivity was halted with the Nazis rise to power in 1933. Interrogated and pronounced a ‘kulturbolschewist’ (a cultural bolshevist) Voll escaped the initial wave of persecution and was allowed to continue his work. During this period Voll began dedicating himself to the female form, particularly enjoying the complexities of the figure in movement, which he expressed in his masterpieces Eva/Erwachen (1928-33) and Sitzender Akt mit Zopf (1932). Akt mit Tuch, 1938, is one of the most beautiful works of this epoch, the soft undulating curves of the female body, paired with the serenity of his figure’s face and the pure white Carerra marble in which it is carved, highlighting the skill of the artist. One man who recognised his talents was friend Edvard Munch who expressed admiration for what he called his ‘primordial force and deep inner calm’. Munch repeatedly tried to organise a solo exhibition of Voll’s works at the National Gallery in Oslo, during the 1930s but it became increasingly difficult with Voll’s diminishing status.
From 1937 the tides turned against Voll, his work was branded degenerate in publications such as SA-mann and confiscated by the Nazis, who destroyed many of his sculptures. This led to his dismissal from the academy in Karlsruhe and the launch of a smearing propaganda campaign against the artist. The safety of his work was precarious following his death in 1939 and was saved by the Danish authorities, who seized a sealed train wagon of his surviving work in Denmark, sent by Munch for Oslo. For the duration of the war it was stored in the cellars of the Danish Parliament Christiansborg in Copenhagen until 1948 when a formal exhibit of the collection was set up.
During the 1950s his wife Erna succeeded in getting much of his work back to Karlsruhe, where the new director of the Kunsthalle, Dr Kurt Martin set to restore his reputation, resurrecting pieces in public spaces such as the Botanical Garden. Between 1960 and 1964 a memorial exhibition toured German museums such as Baden-Baden and Bremen.
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