Theo Balden(Otto Koehler, Theo Balden-Koehler)

Photograph: Theo Balden
Passport picture from the passport of Theo Balden, 1974
Akademie der Künste Berlin, Balden 3

Theo Balden(Otto Koehler, Theo Balden-Koehler)

Es gibt Emigranten, die mit Diamanten gekommen sind, ich besitze aber keinen Wecker und keine Taschenuhr, habe auch kein Fahrgeld, sondern nur ein Ischiasleiden.

[Some immigrants have come with diamonds, but I have no alarm clock, no pocket watch and no bus fare - just my sciatica. (ed. trans.)]

Theo Balden in Theo Balden, 1983

Born6 February 1904 in Blumenau/Santa Catarina, Brazil
Died30 September 1995 in Berlin, Germany
ExileGreat Britain (United Kingdom), Canada, Czechoslovakia
RemigrationFederal Republic of Germany, German Democratic Republic
ProfessionSculptor, Graphic designer

The sculptor Theo Balden was born Otto Koehler in Brazil, the child of an expatriate couple. His father's death prompted his mother to return to Germany with her children. After completing an apprenticeship as a draughtsman, Otto Koehler attended the preliminary course of László Moholy-Nagy and Oskar Schlemmer at the Weimar Bauhaus. He was politically active in the Communist Party and the "Rote Hilfe". In 1929 he became a member of the Association of Revolutionary Visual Artists (Asso) and was active in an illegal resistance group at the time of the transfer of power to Hitler. Because of his illegal political activities, he was arrested in 1934. Following his release he emigrated under the name Theo Balden to Prague in 1935. There he was co-founder and chairman of the "Oskar Kokoschka Bund". In Prague he met his future wife Annemarie Romahn, an emigrant graphic artist and textile designer.

Following the German invasion of Czechoslovakia Theo Balden fled to Britain, where he joined the Freier Deutscher Kulturbund (FDKB) and the Artists' International Association. At the end of May 1940 he was arrested along with many other German exiles and interned in 1940/41 together with fellow artists Heinz Worner and René Graetz in Canada. After his release he worked in a replica workshop in London before moving to Derby in central England in 1941. During his time in Britain Theo Balden created about 50 works of art, including sculptures, drawings and watercolours. Theo Balden returned to East Berlin in 1947 after twelve years in exile.

Further reading:
Hebecker, Susanne: Theo Balden. Skulpturen, Erfurt: Sehsam-Verlag 2004.
Feist, Ursula: Theo Balden, Dresden: Verlag der Kunst 1983.

Selected works:
Robert von Ranke-Graves. (Gips, 1939)
Geisel (Hostage). (Holz, 1941)
Geschlagener Jude (Head of a beaten Jew), (Bronze, gegossen, 1943)
Die blinden Krieger (The Blind Warriors) (Kreide, Wasser, Deckfarben auf Papier, 1945)
Ernst Busch (Bronze, 1955/1962)
Torso eines Gemarterten (Bronze, 1972)