In 1974, Erich Engelbrecht visits Werner Haftmann, at that time the first director of the Berlin National Gallery. He presents him with examples of his prints and illustrations of his paintings. Werner Haftmann looks at them long and thoughtfully. Finally he raises his head and says:
“I pride myself on knowing all the major art movements of the 20th century, but I can’t find anything that compares to your work.”
After a further short break:
“Maybe Viktor Brauner?”
After an even shorter break:
“No, not him either. Your work is completely singular.”
Werner Haftmann had written a much-acclaimed two-volume work, “Malerei im 20.Jahrhundert” (N.T. “Painting in the 20th century”). At the time, he was regarded as the best authority on the different contemporary art movements. He wasn’t able to include Erich Engelbrecht in an exhibition, as he gave up his position only a few months after that meeting.
What is so unusual about the work of this artist?
There is a close connection between sensual and intellectual perception. Even the term “meaning” follows such a connection. The prehistoric man “pointed” with the finger at what a second person was also supposed to look at. At the same time, he produced a special sound. Accords arose. The same sounds meant the same things, even if they were no longer seen together. And eventually in order to communicate intellectual “processes” and spiritual “experiences”, slightly modified similes of sensual perception were used. Our so-called entire “abstract” (=deducted) “concepts” “fall back” on sensual perception. Originally, the Greek word “psyche” meant “breath” and even when we feel dejected, it doesn’t mean that we are actually lying on the floor.
Erich Engelbrecht worked like the primitive man. Instead of deliberating, he worked up his pictures intuitively [in German original text “intuierte” from Latin “intuere” meaning “to look into”, “inner view”, “introspective view”]. According to C.G. Jung, he called his pictures “archetypal”. The word “archetype” is derived from Greek and means “prototype”, “original”, or “most ancient form”.
Holterdorf (Melle, Germany)