John llmari Auerbach was a sculptor, painter, and writer. In Germany he called himself John Ilmari-Auerbach, in France Jean or Joannès Ilmari, and England John Ivor Allenby.
Family and Life
John Auerbach's father Max was a Breslauer pianist and his mother Käthe was a teacher. John had three younger siblings, Cornelia (Cora), Klaus and Günter. In 1898 he left the Jewish faith of his family and converted to Christianity. After his parents separation in 1906 his mother went left with the two youngest sons while John and Cornelia initially stayed with their father. Their childless uncle Felix Auerbach who was professor at the University of Jena soon became a surrogate father to all the children.
After traveling to Germany with the mother until 1915 he ended up in Notabitur, and attended lectures in Strasbourg, before he was called up for combat in France. Because of bronchitis he was hospitalized after a short period of combat and the only survivor of an otherwise reamed MG Company. In 1918 he joined the Communist Party of Germany and campaigned against the "narrow-minded" bourgeoisie of his family. He studied until 1919 at the Academy of Fine Arts in Weimar with Richard Engelmann and one of the first students at the Weimar Bauhaus where he met Walter Gropius. During this time his design was chosen for the first seal in a student competition. In Weimar Auerbach became friends with Ernst Fuhrmann and Hugo Hertwig and in 1920 they took part in a communist development project called kibbutz. After personal and financial differences Auerbach attempted suicide on the 21st of September in 1921.
He returned to Berlin in 1921 and in 1922 married his childhood sweetheart Ingeborg Harnack. She was the daughter of the Jena Painter Clara Harnack and sister of the future resistance fighters Arvid and Falk Harnack. They moved to the hunting lodge Kranichstein in Darmstadt where they gave birth to their son Wulf. In 1921 commissioned for the tomb of Karl Ernst Osthaus (above).
From 1925 to 1928 Auerbach was featured in exhibitions in Paris and received several awards. He took on a position as a bricklayer because financial success failed to materialize.
In 1930 his marriage ended in divorce and his ex-wife moved with their older son Wulf from Paris to Berlin. Both sons were educated in Nazi schools and later served, under concealment of their Jewish descent, in the Nazi Air Force (Wulf) and Navy (Claus).
Auerbach was in Paris in 1930 until he fled to Hamburg because of a death in the construction of his self-built studio. Here he belonged to a resistance group and was brought by the Nazis to a concentration camp from April 1933 to the end of 1935. In July 1933 he was in solitary confinement where he was tortured and beaten. In April 1934, he was in the Fuhlsbüttel concentration camp, where he was allowed some relief for good behavior and used as a letter designer. After his release in October 1935 he soon found his way to prison from November to December after sending a postcard to a comrade in the concentration camp.
From 1935 to 1936 he worked in the Jewish Cultural Association Hamburg where he met Rosa Schapire and the painter Kurt Lowengard. He taught classes and was supported by the Cultural Association. In April 1936, he joined Friedrich Adler at the Franz Rosenzweig -Gedächtnis Foundation and participated in the Jewish artists exhibition in Hamburg. Here he married the art historian Inge Fraenkel whom he met through Rosa Schapire. The couple emigrated to England in May 1936 and settled in Capri. In 1937 they traveled to Malta in the British Crown Colony of Cyprus where they lived with virtually no income and could not rent studio space. In October 1938, the couple returned to London.
In 1946 Auerbach served with the British War Office, became a British citizen, and taught sculpture at the Art Academy in Oxford. His living conditions were poor and in 1949 Auerbach died of a heart attack at age 50.