Carl Einstein  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Carl Einstein (aka Karl Einstein) was born on April 26, 1885, in Neuwied/Rhein, Germany and died July 3 or July 5, 1940.



Carl Einstein was an author belonging to Expressionism as well as a historian of art, communist sympathizer and anarchist activist. He was a friend and colleague of George Grosz, Georges Braque, Picasso and Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler. He combined many strands of both political and aesthetic discourse into his writings, addressing both the developing aesthetic of modern art and the political situation in Europe.

Einstein’s life was marked by the violent political and social implications of war and revolution. He was actively involved in the Revolutionary Soldier’s Council in Brussels and to a lesser extent in the Spartacist revolt in Berlin and later in the anarchist Durruti Column during the Spanish Civil War. In addition to his participation in these political movements, Einstein’s fate as a German speaking Jew born to a religious, but assimilated family, placed him in the direct cross-fire of the forces of the violent anti-Semitism which shaped European history during his lifetime.

Einstein was a well-known author and art critic ranging from his debut novel Bebuquin oder die Dilettanten des Wunders, to his widely read work on African sculpture Negerplastik, despite its offensive sounding title, credited as being one of first important books acknowledging African art in Europe (and especially its relationship to Cubism), the final volume of the prestigious Propyläen Verlag history of art series Die Kunst des 20. Jahrhunderts (Art of the 20th Century), which may have gained him an invitation to teach at the Bauhaus (he declined), to the notorious play Die Schlimme Botschaft. Another Africa-related book is "Afrikanische Märchen und Legenden", a compilation of African mythology in very expressive language. Einstein also worked on numerous journals and collective projects, among some of the more important: Die Aktion edited by Franz Pfemfert, Die Pleite and Der Blutige Ernst with George Grosz, and the legendary journal Documents: Doctrines, Archéologie, Beaux-arts, Ethnographie edited with Georges Bataille.

Following a malicious campaign led by rightwing zealots against his play Die Schlimme Botschaft which led to his conviction for “blasphemy” in 1922, Einstein voluntarily left Germany (then the Weimar Republic) remaining mostly in France although traveling back and forth, until, with Hitler’s rise to power in 1933, his exile became permanent and officially mandated. Einstein spent 1936-1938 fighting in the Spanish Civil War after which he returned to France where in 1940 he was arrested and interned along with the other German émigrés until his liberation later in the spring of 1940 as a result of the chaotic circumstances in the face of the rapidly progressing German invasion. Finally the implications of the geopolitical advances of the German army would isolate and eventually trap Einstein on the French border with Franco’s Spain, leaving him with no alternative than suicide.


  • Bebuquin oder die Dilettanten des Wunders. Ein Roman. Berlin: Verlag der Wochenschrift Die Aktion, 1912.
  • Neue Blätter. Berlin: Baron, 1912.
  • Wilhelm Lehmbrucks graphisches Werk. Berlin: Cassirer, 1913.
  • Negerplastik. Leipzig: Verlag der weißen Bücher, 1915.
  • Der Unentwegte Platoniker. Leipzig: Wolff, 1918.
  • Afrikanische Plastik. Berlin: Wasmuth 1921 (Orbis pictus, Weltkunst-Bücherei; 7).
  • Die schlimme Botschaft. Berlin: Rowohlt, 1921.
  • Der frühere japanische Holzschnitt. Berlin: Wasmuth 1922 (Orbis pictus, Weltkunst-Bücherei; 16).
  • Afrikanische Märchen und Legenden; herausgegeben von Carl Einstaein, Rowohlt, 1925. Neuausgabe (1980) MEDUSA Verlag Wölk + Schmid, Berlin.
  • Die Kunst des 20. Jahrhunderts. Berlin: Propyläen, 1926. (Propyläen-Kunstgeschichte; 16).
  • Entwurf einer Landschaft. Paris: Kahnweiler, 1930.
  • Giorgio di Chirico. Berlin: Galerie Flechtheim, 1930.
  • Die Kunst des XX. Jahrhunderts. Berlin: Propyläen, 1931.
  • Georges Braque. Paris: Editions des chroniques du jour. London: Zwemmer. New York: E. Weyhe, 1934.

Editions of Works

  • Gesammelte Werke. Herausgegeben von Ernst Nef. Wiesbaden: Limes, 1962.
  • Werke. 3 Bände, Berlin: Medusa, 1980-1985.
  • Bebuquin oder Die Dilettanten des Wunders. Prosa und Schriften 1906-1929. Herausgegeben von Hermann Haarmann und Klaus Siebenhaar. Leipzig, Weimar: Kiepenheuer, 1989.
  • Werke. Berliner Ausgabe. Herausgegeben von Hermann Haarmann und Klaus Siebenhaar. 6 Bände, Berlin: Fannei & Walz, 1992-1996.


  • Johann Siemon: Einstein und Benn — Geschichte einer Entfernung? In: Kiefer, Klaus H. (Hg.): Carl-Einstein-Kolloquium 1994. Frankfurt/M., Berlin, New York, Paris, Wien 1996. S. 89-104.
  • Reto Sorg: Aus den "Gärten der Zeichen". Zu Carl Einstein "Bebuquin". München: Fink 1997.
  • Alexander Emanuely: "La paz que mata - Carl Einstein aus der Asche", in ContextXXI 3-4/2005.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Carl Einstein" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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