In 2004 the Schwules Museum obtained the enormous collection of the Berliner graphic designer Eberhardt Brucks who was then 86 years old. This collection contains most of the drawings. Besides that it involves letters, photographs, but also sketch drawings, notes, programmes, books and many other items.
The examination and analysis of the material proofs Brucks’ manic passion for collecting. It arises out of a picture of a gay person and a artist, whose development was shaped by upheavals in society and political pressure. Also his search for artistic, spiritual and sexual free space becomes clear. Countless letters and photographs show a network of friendships and solid relationships.This made it possible for him to endure, without any damage, both national-socialist times and the years after the Second World War until the uplifting of section 175 in 1969.
Born in 1917 in Berlin-Lichtenrade, Eberhardt Brucks grew up in a religious family, whose middle class existence was destroyed because of the Great Depression.
The tense economical family situation and a congenital handicap lead to Eberhardt Brucks’ early escape to an alternative world, which he found through cinema and literature. In 1936 he started his education as a costume and stage desginer at the Textil- und Modeschule (Textiles and Fashion Academy) of Berlin. In 1938, just before completing his study, he had to appear before the Arbeitsdienst (Voluntary Service) followed by the conscription into the army as a soldier. Until 1945 he was stationed in the vicinity of Berlin, because of his handicap he was not fit to be sent to the front.Yet he tried to complete his interrupted education by signing up to courses at the Hochschule für Bildende Künste (Academy for Visual Arts). In spite of the pressure of persecution, Brucks succeeded to live his sexual needs and wishes in a punctual way. Especially, in the metropole of Berlin the anonimity of the saunas guaranteed a certain protection.
After the war he started with his exhibitions and in 1947 he became known through the illustrations he made for E.T.A. Hoffmann. The life long occupation with Hoffmanns romantic world, offered him a relying spiritual retreat.
In 1948 Brucks went to Switzerland for one year. There he got in touch with the gay organisation Der Kreis (The Circle), for which he made drawings for their magazine. After that he also worked for the German gay movement. In 1954 Brucks illustrated the brochure Strichjunge Karl (Rent boy Karl), which dealt with male prostitution. Extensively concealed by the press, this publication had dramatic results: the author Botho Laserstein went to prison and committed suicide, the publisher Christian Hansen Schmidt had to go for bankrupcy.
Between 1954 and 1961 Brucks worked as an extra at the Volksbühne (Peoples’ Theater) in East-Berlin, simultaneous he started working as a portrait photographer. After the erection of the Berlin Wall he became an extra at the Film in West-Berlin and from 1964 till 1970 he was active for the Berufsverband Bildender Künstler (Association of Visual Artists).
Both short and long term relationships were part of the artists’ life, until the Berliner Hans Pählke came into his life. This important relationship lasted more than ten years, but ended in a dramatically way: in 1963 Pählke took his own life. Consecutively, a strengthened Brucks turned himself into art production an experimented with new techniques like for instance wax crayon. He had his last personal exhibition in 1987 in Frankfurt/Main. Today he is still living in his parents’ house in Berlin.
The exhibition features hundreds of drawings, photographs and other documents of his collection, the artistic and personal life of Eberhardt Brucks.
A book about his life is in preparation, and will probably be published in June 2008.
We would like to thank Eberhardt Brucks for the generous support to our work.
Curator: Anton Stern