I have to give all the credit in the world to Galleria d’Arte Thule for discovering this ‘obscure’ artist from the Third Reich era to me. Most of the graphic material here seems to come from old magazines of the period, which makes me think if this kind of material had not survived we would have probably lost all information about artists such as Josef Gerlach. I completely ignore if his paintings still exist today (at least I have not found any evidence of his work being sold at any of these auction websites). From this little collection of artworks I have to point out the enigmatic Frau mit Alpenveilchen (Woman with Alpine Violet) (1940) a haunting image which looks to me like some kind of Aryan ‘Mona Lisa’ of sorts, or one of these unique moments in art in which the subject acquires some sort of transcendence due to the way of its representation. Another feature about Josef Gerlach that catches my attention is his very streamlined style (rather contemporary-looking if you ask me) which could have put him on a pair with the great Wolfgang Willrich.
Josef Gerlach was born in Barmen (Wuppertal) on September 9, 1900. He began his art studies in Barmen with the famous painter and ideologue Ludwig Fahrenkrog. From 1920 to 1926 he studied in the Academy of Fine Arts in Dresden with the painter Georg Lührig. In 1925 Gerlach participated in the Neue Gruppe association of Dresden artists who were students of the painter and graphic artist Richard Müller. Gerlach took part in the exhibition collective with Dresdner Kunstgenossenschaft and Dresdner Sezession from July to October 1925 with the artists Johannes Maximilian Avenarius, Ernst Christian W. Berger, Ludwig Göbel, Richard Guhr, Karl Hanusch, Olaf Jordan, Hermann Lange, Georg Lührig, Richard Müller, Erich Ockert, Bruno Seener, Georg Siebert, Max Stecher and Wolfgang Willrich. Its proximity to the völkisch circles was clearly evident in his works of ethnic, folk and peasants which appeared in magazines such as Neues Volk, Volk und Rasse, Velhagen & Klasings and Westermanns Monatshefte.
From 1931 to 1941 he was a teacher of painting techniques and murals. From 1941 to 1945 he became a soldier in the Second World War. After the war, due to his close association with the National Socialist ideology, Gerlach was suspended from teaching. Josef Gerlach died in Stockach (Baden-Württemberg) on December 28, 1992.