A well-known German sculptor favored by the Nazis during World War II has been denounced by students at Saint Mary’s College in Moraga who discovered one of his bronzes on campus – and who launched a petition drive to have the work removed.
Fritz von Graevenitz’s “Falcon Boy,” a slim-figured bronze of a youth – believed to have been the artist’s deceased brother staring pensively at a falcon perched on his hand – stood until recently in the courtyard of the school’s Museum of Art.
School officials ordered the work, cast by the sculptor in 1953, removed until “more education” and a community discussion could be conducted.
“…in the meantime, we have removed it temporarily because of the student concerns,” said William Mullen, SMC’s vice provost of enrollment and communications. “We wanted to take the students’ concerns very seriously. We’re trying to learn more facts…”
Although the nude, spartan work bears no Nazi symbology, the students believe the artist’s other works on behalf of the National Socialists and family ties to the party during the war years were reason enough to have the piece removed.
More than 1,000 of a requested 1,500 people have signed a Change.org petition agreeing, so far, with supporters asking that “Falcon Boy” be replaced with something that “celebrates Jewish culture and prosperity.”
Historians just getting word about the work’s removal admit von Graevenitz (b. 1892 – d. 1959) was a favorite of the Nazi hierarchy and was photographed sculpting works for party members and buildings – although he was not a member of the Nazi Party himself. He was, however, a member of the Militant League for German Culture, a group given to the promotion of Nazi values in art and culture in Germany.
Von Graevenitz served as director of Stuttgart’s State Academy of Fine Arts during the National Socialist Party’s rise to power and on into the war years. He was also included in the regime’s Gottbegnadeten-Liste (“God-gifted list” or “Important Artist Exempt List”) a 36-page roster of artists considered crucial to Nazi culture.
College administrators said “Falcon Boy” was purchased on behalf of the college by Henry Schaefer-Simmern, an art faculty member who died in 1978. Schaefer-Simmern was born in Germany but left the country in 1937 after “[s]eeing that further art education research and teaching were impossible under Hitler’s regime,” according to a 1980 biography.