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Pierre Albasser

bio Ernst Kolb

Ernst Michael Kolb, was born on 22 October 1927 in Mannheim, Germany, as son of a railwayman, and grew up in a children‘s home for railroad employees on the Danube. He had a sister who was 4 years older and mentally ill (schizophrenia) and died in 1974. After 8 years he left school, trained as a baker and got a professional certificate in 1944. In 1945 Kolb had to join the army and four months later, he was released from american war captivity.
His mother, who was mentally ill was gassed in 1940 by the Nazis at the age of 41, which was hidden from the family with a forged death certificate. It is not known, whether Ernst Kolb learned the truth about it, but he probably guessed it later. He worked in Mannheim as a baker until 1977, at the same time visiting numerous lectures, concerts, political meetings, theater performances, and all kind of events in Mannheim and its surroundings. 1969 he had to be hospitalized with Diabetes and it was then, at the hospital,that he started drawing in his notebook.
His father died in 1964 and Kolb inherited his grandfather, Michael Kolb‘s property. He managed his assets cleverly, and continued to work as a baker but travelled a lot between 1952 and 1969. He went to Italy, Switzerland, France, Agypt, Marokko, Hungary, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Netherlands, Belgium, Britain, Scandinavia and Greece, visited cities such as London, Paris and Vienna, and famous museums like the Prado, Louvre and Uffici, as well as archeological sites like Pompeii, Greece and Asia Minor.
Due to a typical occupational allergy, he became unemployed, and in 1984 he retired early and used his time to attend council meetings, court hearings, lectures, exhibition openings, concerts and other events. From morning to night he was on the road, satisfying his hunger for information. As Ernst Kolb went everywhere, he became part of the cultural life of his town and a locally well-known «Original», particularly as his appearance and the chock-full plastic bag he always carried, rarely fitted in the more upmarket ambience of the receptions, lectures and art openings he attended. He talked a local dialect and was very fond of drinks and food that where offered. Besides he was constantly looking out for menus, leaflets, invitations or stationery, whose backs he could use for his drawings. In 1985, by chance, artists saw his drawings, that he considered as «doodles», and these people became his tutors and organized his first public exhibition, which had a quite extraordinary success. Ernst Kolb was no longer the «Original» everybody knew; he was seen as a serious and obsessed artist, whose works were exhibited several times. The attention of other artists was focused on him; they made pictures of him and poets would write about him.
The success of his first exhibition, where he sold a few works, motivated him and he continued to draw. It is estimated that he has made at least 1000 drawings. In the years 1986, 87, 88 and 91 he presented his works in local exhibitions. In 1991 he suffered a stroke from which he did not recover properly. He was not seen in public any more, living in a nursing home, where his last exhibition took place in June 1993, two weeks before he died on 1st of July in hospital from stomach cancer. He was burried in the main cemetery of Mannheim, where many people paid him their last respects. Meanwhile his grave has been dissolved and no longer exists.

In 2000 «Der Mann mit der Plastiktasche – Erinnerungen an den Bürger Kolb» by Rolf Bergmann (ISBN 3-929242-21-4) was published in German in Marsilius Verlag, Speyer. A publication of his diaries is in preparation. After his death, Ernst Kolb seemed to be almost forgotten. It was lucky that Rolf Bergmann who had known Kolb came in charge of his estate and decided to offer his drawings with extremely nicely invented titles for sale on eBay and attracted art lovers and demand for the works of an almost forgotten artist. The "Collection de l'Art Brut" in Lausanne became aware of Kolb and acquired drawings. The magazin for outsider art "RAWVISION", introduced Kolb in number 79 in August 2013. In November 2013, Rolf Bergmanns published his biography of the artist: "Ernst Kolb, baker, citizen, artist" in the Wellhöfer Verlag as No. 1 of publications dedicated to Mannehimer personalities (ISBN 978-3-95428-142-8). Sadly Bergmann died in 2015 and Kolb has lost his important promotor. Helas Bergmann could not see the result of his efforts and his activities in favor of Kolb, when the Collection de L'Art Brut in Lausanne organized an exhibition in 2018, that assigned Kolb an place among the important artists of Art Brut.