Bronze statue at the town hall
The bronze statue on the western side of the town hall is undoubtedly the most famous and most photographed representation of the Bremen Town Musicians. Its central location adds to its overall effect.
About the statue
The famous statue can be found outside the town hall and is a popular subject for photographs, and not just for tourists. The donkey's front legs are shinier than the rest of the statue, as rubbing them is thought to bring good luck.
The bronze statue of the Town Musicians was commissioned by the Verkehrsverein der Freien Hansestadt Bremen e.V. and created by Gerhard Marcks. It was installed in 1953, initially on loan from Marcks' workshop. Dr Hanns Meyer, head of the tourism organisation, appealed to Bremen's community spirit and collected donations to make the animals' home permanent. Aided by a loan from the city, the pyramid of animals standing one on top of the other was purchased for 20,000 deutschmarks. To this day, it remains one of Bremen's signature attractions along with the town hall and the Roland statue.
Gerhard Marcks was born on 18 February 1889 in Berlin. After leaving school, he dedicated himself to art, sketching landscapes in addition to animals at Berlin Zoo. But it was not long before the impending Great War put a stop to his creative endeavour. Serving with the military during the war and, from 1917, as an advisor to the German War Graves Commission, he was left with little scope to work as an artist. Marcks was only able to return to his true calling when the devastating war was over.
In the years that followed, Gerhard Marcks turned his attention to pottery at the Weimar Bauhaus, having completed a year's teaching at the School of Applied Arts in Berlin. He then went on to give sculpture classes at Giebichenstein Castle in Halle an der Saale. When the National Socialists seized power, the gifted artist and teacher was removed from his post, upon which he returned to Mecklenburg with his family.
As with many other artists, Gerhard Marcks suffered badly during the Third Reich. His work was obstructed, he was included in the "degenerate art" exhibition of 1937, and several of his pieces were even melted down to make munitions. If that wasn't enough, Marcks' Berlin studio was hit by a bomb and reduced to rubble. He was banned from exhibiting and constantly threatened with a ban on working altogether.
After the war, Marcks took up an appointment at the School of Art in Hamburg, but left five years later to pursue a career as a freelance artist. The famous bronze statue of the Bremen Town Musicians, which stands on the western side of the town hall, originates from this period (1952). That same year, Gerhard Marcks received the Order Pour le Mérite, one of the highest honours that can be bestowed on an artist in Germany.
Throughout his life, Gerhard Marcks embarked on a number of foreign trips, including to Italy, Greece, South Africa and America. He enjoyed a successful career as an artist, taking part in prestigious exhibitions such as the documenta in Kassel, and collecting numerous accolades and awards.
The Gerhard Marcks Foundation was established during his lifetime in 1969. It was initiated by Günter Busch, the former director of Bremen's Kunsthalle gallery. The sculpture museum of the same name opened two years later.
The legacy of Gerhard Marcks in Bremen endures in a number of public commissions, with the bronze statue of the Bremen Town Musicians prominent among them. Another bronze statue, that of Aegina, has been on display in Wallanlagen Park since 1968. Although there was no specific commission for the figure, the sculptor said he always intended it for Bremen. Upon its completion in 1966, Marcks wrote of "my great lady of Bremen" in a letter.
Gerhard Marcks died on 13 November 1982 in his home in the Eifel region. He was one of the most influential German sculptors of the 20th century.