Bernhard Heiliger

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Bernhard Heiliger (11 November 1915, Stettin – 25 October 1995, Berlin) was a German artist. He was considered “West Germany’s foremost sculptor”, and his large public artworks are a prominent presence in many German cities, especially Berlin.


Heiliger began his artistic education with an apprenticeship as a stone carver and a course of study at the Stettiner Werkschule für Gestaltende Arbeiten from 1933-36 under Kurt Schwerdtfeger, who had been a student of the Bauhaus. After this he attended the Staatlichen Hochschule für bildende Künste (National College of Visual Arts) in 1938, where he studied under Arno Breker. In 1941 he was drafted into the army and served as a radio operator on the Eastern Front for two years, before he received an exemption from military service through the intervention of Breker. Despite this he was drafted again in 1944, after which he fled as a deserter through northern Germany.

In May 1946 Heiliger exhibits with the painter Fritz Ascher at the Karl Buchholz Gallery in Berlin. Heiliger’s design for the Memorial to Unknown Political Prisoners (1953) brought him his first international recognition, earning him the Prize of the National Government and a prize from the Institute of Contemporary Arts. This was followed by his participation in several prominent international exhibits, such as the documenta I & II in Kassel (1955 and 1959) and the Venice Biennale (1956), and by commissions such as sculptures for the German pavilion at the 1958 World’s Fair in Brussels. In 1956 he became a member of the Berlin Academy of Art. In 1974 he was recognized with the Federal Cross of Merit, and in 1984 was awarded an honorary membership in the Deutscher Künstlerbund.

He died in Berlin in 1995, and was buried in Berlin’s Dahlem Cemetery (Friedhof Dahlem).


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