Head of a Thinker, Wilhelm Lehmbruck

Wilhelm Lehmbruck (German, 1881–1919)
Head of a Thinker, 1918

Cast stone (one of three casts)

 Purchase, 1973 (4135.1)

 With its prominent forehead, deep-set eyes, resolute expression, and single clenched fist, this portrait bust by the German Expressionist sculptor Wilhelm Lehmbruck assumes the brooding pathos of a person tormented in thought. Its attenuated proportions, violently rent limbs, and overall sense of profound despair suggest the anxiety and doom of the First World War and its aftermath, of which Lehmbruck had direct experience as a nurse in a German military hospital. Whether a harrowing tribute to the enormous suffering he witnessed there or an autobiographical reference to his own desolation (he committed suicide a year after this sculpture was completed) Head of a Thinker is less a likeness of a specific sitter than a grim reflection of the anguish felt by many in the wake of the first mechanized war.