Germany: “Everything will remain for the people …”

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How a humble master from Zhitomir created a sculpture by Willy Brandt in Germany

The people of Nuremberg have long been accustomed to this monument. Near the bus station, as if resting on the square of his name, sat down on a low plinth the fourth chancellor of Germany, long-term burgomaster of West Berlin, Willy Brandt, cast in bronze by the sculptor from the Soviet Union Joseph Tabachnik. Smiling, vigorous and reliable man, as the master sculpted him, Willy Brandt became a bright symbol of peace and deep repentance of the Germans not only for his contemporaries, but also for posterity. How did our compatriot, who has been living in Bavaria since 1997, get an order for such an important job? To answer this question, let’s go back a few decades.

The hard way to a dream

By the time of moving to Germany for permanent residence, Joseph Simkhovich Tabachnik was a mature artist. One of his first monumental works (co-authored with two other young sculptors) was the monument to the students and teachers of the Mining Institute named after V.I., erected in Leningrad in 1976, erected in Leningrad in 1976 and during the blockade. G. V. Plekhanov. The monument still adorns the territory of the institute on the Vasilievsky Island of St. Petersburg. Joseph’s works were celebrated during his apprenticeship at competitions of art schools in Ukraine. But at the institute at the Academy of Arts of Ukraine, there was no place for a talented young man. There they cared not so much about talents as about the nationality of students …

Willy Brandt monument in Nuremberg, 2009.





After the army, the persistent guy successfully enters the Leningrad Institute of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture. I. E. Repin of the USSR Academy of Arts. The aspiring sculptor studied in the workshop of Professor Mikhail Anikushin. And after many years of fruitful work, the tireless search for perfection bore fruit: more than 55 significant monuments, steles and monuments by Joseph Tabachnik were installed in the cities and towns of the then Soviet Union. But in the notorious nineties, the work was gone. The master, recognized at home, began to teach the children fine arts at the Zhytomyr art school. Life was not easy. But most importantly, the sculptor wanted to create. There were no prospects in Ukraine. Spouses Tabachnik, along with two minor children, leave for permanent residence in Germany. Here, Joseph trained in his youth as part of an exchange of students with the Dresden Academy of Arts and had hopes for good orders and freedom of creativity.

Emigration does not often cordially help the formation of an artist. It was not easy for Joseph Tabachnik during the period of talent approval in Bavaria. In order not to forget professional skills and not to lose skill, the newly arrived immigrant goes to work in a stone-processing company as an ordinary granulator! Hard work, eternal haste, harm from the constant presence of dust in the air did not discourage the master from being realized. He felt that he had not completely exhausted his creative potential, although working with a stone required special knowledge and skills. The new employee did not immediately have them, but they noticed them. They also instructed to make copies of famous sculptures.

Memorial “Victims of the tragedy in the Bohun forest”, Zhitomir, 1996.





At the same time, on weekends, the master began to make a huge model of the Great Nuremberg Synagogue, which the Nazis burned on crystal night. The work was going to be unique, because the exact copy required filigree design efforts, a significant investment of time. The model in all its charm can be seen today in the hall of the building of the city’s Jewish community. But when the master learned that there was a competition for the project of a monument to the founder of Adidas, Adolf Dasler, he decided to take part in it, distracting himself from everything else. At my own peril and risk, I made sketches, sketches of the model. The jury presented them together with the works of other authors to the relatives of the manufacturer. It was they who chose the sketches that belonged to Iosif Tabachnik.

The sportswear and footwear company built a large stadium in Herzogenaurach, the hometown of the famous inventor of studded boots, before the 2006 FIFA World Cup. There, in the second row, a figure created by the sculptor was initially seated among the audience. Joseph worked on the implementation of his plans for more than a year and a half, forever leaving his dependence on the orders of a stone-processing company. After that, the epic of the recognition of the master and his sculpture, Adi Dasler, began. Only last year this work by Tabachnik was installed in London and Shanghai. And before that, authorized copies of the monument appeared near the stadium in New York, at the firm’s store in Paris. After the construction of the new Adidas center in Herzogenaurach, the monument was moved. Now he decorates the ensemble of the new building.

Sculpture by Adi Dasler, Herzogenaurach, 2006.





Ideas and incarnations

On November 9, 2009, a monument to the fourth German chancellor, the Nobel laureate Willie Brandt, was unveiled in Nuremberg. When the veil was removed from the monument, and he appeared in all its glory, an exclamation suddenly rang out among the townspeople, representatives of the city administration, guests invited to the celebration. “Willy, you are here as if alive” – ​​this is the successor of the ruling burgomaster of West Berlin, friend of Brandt and his party member Hans Vogel could not refrain from showing emotions …

In order to achieve such recognition, the sculptor had to delve deeply into the created image of a person and a citizen, and not only to achieve a portrait resemblance. When a competition was announced to create a monument to this outstanding personality, several venerable German craftsmen took part in it. The invitation for Tabachnik was already a recognition of his talent and capabilities. But to defeat the professors? Joseph read a lot of literature about Herbert Frahm (the real name of the chancellor), who was destined to make himself, at the risk of his life, fight fascism, return to Germany in 1945 as a Scandinavian newspaper correspondent for the Nuremberg trials and become a beloved and respected politician for the Germans Brandt. Recalling his work, the sculptor says: “Portrait resemblance will not touch anyone, if you do not breathe soul into the image, do not let the fate and deeds of your hero pass through yourself.”

Poet Joseph Brodsky, bronze, 2008.





Joseph lived with thoughts of his model for a long time before creating his many proposals for perpetuating the memory of Brandt. His rivals decided to portray a figure who is in full dress, who is kneeling in memory of the victims and heroes of the Warsaw ghetto. And our fellow tribesman, who, of course, knew this fact, chose a different coverage of the personality. Humanity is the trait that allowed the fourth chancellor of Germany to win the hearts of people, his voters, defend his ideals and strive for peace. The master embodied this trait in the figure that won the competition. And then there was a long way to make a monument in bronze. The work of a sculptor requires not only talent, hard work, diligence and patience, but overcoming many difficulties when working with intermediate forms and materials applicable for this. Joseph Tabachnik did a wonderful job and created a real work of art.

An equally interesting piece is a large figure of a football player, cast by a master from bronze. Germany’s best football magazine “Kicker” erected a statue near the entrance to the magazine’s headquarters in Nuremberg. This masterpiece is just 300 meters from the Willy Brandt Monument. In order to bring his project to life, Iosif Tabachnik had to invent a special frame and do engineering calculations. After all, the sculpture of a football player has very little support – an athlete in a jump kicks the ball through himself, in a fall. Before being cast from bronze, the so-called bicycle was supposed to be made of clay in full size, and then molded from plaster, practically by weight. Now, on a green “field” of rare green granite, leaning on the big letter “K”, a bronze youth practically soars in the air. It symbolizes the achievements of the Germans in this beloved sport and serves as a decoration for the building of the founder of the association of football publications.

Polar bears at the Nuremberg Zoo, 2007.





The sculptor Tabachnik has many interesting and less monumental works. In the chamber miniatures “Small Monuments to Big People” and small sculptures from the “Holidays” series one can feel the author’s individuality, penetration into the world of his models and considerable plastic skill. The series “Small Monuments …” includes sculptural portraits of Osip Mandelstam, Amedeo Modigliani, Franz Kafka, Joseph Brodsky, Marc Chagall, Jacob Wasserman, Sholem Aleichem, Solomon Mikhoels, Isaac Babel, Albert Einstein and many other famous personalities. With this series, the artist, by his own admission, made his cherished dream come true – this is how he expressed gratitude to the Jews who illuminated the world with their talent.

Ceramic miniatures of Tabachnik on Jewish themes are kept by patrons around the world. In general, miniature is one of Tabachnik’s favorite genres. Back in Zhitomir, he started, and in Nuremberg continued a series of miniatures on the Jewish theme “Holidays”. He was offered to make abstract compositions. But a modest man, Joseph Simkhovich, prefers to give people understandable art, aesthetic pleasure to receiving significant fees.

The craftsmen attracted the methods of sculpting animals. He studies the behavior of animals before creating such sculptures. “Last year I went to see my Knut in Berlin,” says the master about the figure he created in memory of the white bear so beloved by Berliners. And in the Nuremberg Zoo there are figures of animals, the work of Joseph Tabachnik. All of them are pleasing to the eye of both a small and an adult viewer and fit perfectly into the surrounding landscape …

More information about the biography and works of the master can be found on his website: http://iosif-tabachnik.de.

Elena GRINBERG,

photos: http://iosif-tabachnik.de.

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