View of Nuremberg from the Sinwellturm, 1945, Friedrich Neubauer, 1962, From the collection of: The City of Nuremberg's Art Collections, Nuremberg Municipal Museums

Chronicler of the Rebuilding of Nuremberg

Draftsman and architect Friedrich Neubauer (1912 – 2004) and his works were only rediscovered in 2015. He left behind an extensive body of work that bears witness to a powerful creative urge. He turned his main attention to the rebuilding process at an early point – more than 300 of his works deal with the topic. He was especially concerned with the reconstruction of Nuremberg's architectural monuments, the Rathaus, and the churches; he also documented some of them in large-format etchings.

Picture credit: Nuremberg Municipal Archives

Jahresblatt, Friedrich Neubauer, 1946/47, From the collection of: The City of Nuremberg's Art Collections, Nuremberg Municipal Museums

The change of the year from 1946 to 1947 was an occasion for Neubauer to recall that time kept marching on with no thought of the war's victims. This drawing reveals the viewpoint of an undaunted optimist, which Friedrich Neubauer undoubtedly was.

His view of the situation would prove correct. Shortly after the war ended, the auspices for rebuilding were already good. As early as the spring of 1947, Mayor Hans Ziegler proclaimed an architectural competition for rebuilding the Old Town. Between 1948 and 1954 an "Advisory Board for Rebuilding the City of Nuremberg" decided what construction projects would get under way.

Praying Hands, Friedrich Neubauer, 1945, From the collection of: The City of Nuremberg's Art Collections, Nuremberg Municipal Museums

In comparison to Albrecht Dürer's drawing, Friedrich Neubauer's rendition notably portrays hands from the working class. Unlike the Old Master's elegantly elongated hands, Neubauer's hands recall hard manual labor. One might even see the clasped fingers almost as fists, energetically poised to overcome the day's challenges.

But before rebuilding could begin in the years after 1945, the landscape of rubble first had to be cleared. On June 5, 1945, the total volume of debris came to 13,000,000 cubic meters! The work would occupy many hands – including those of women and children – for many years to come.

Albrecht Dürer's House, Friedrich Neubauer, 1946, From the collection of: The City of Nuremberg's Art Collections, Nuremberg Municipal Museums

Albrecht Dürer's former home and studio, today one of the most important of Nuremberg's Municipal Museums, was among the first buildings to be restored in the rebuilding program. It reopened as early as August 30, 1949, with a lively participation from the population. The occasion was the German Construction Exhibition at the Congress Hall on the Dutzendteich lake. The opening of Dürer's house represented the launch of the city's plans for reconstruction, even though restoration work on the house would continue until 1953.

Nothing but Ruins, and Still No Peace, Friedrich Neubauer, 1956, From the collection of: The City of Nuremberg's Art Collections, Nuremberg Municipal Museums

The title makes it clear that here Friedrich Neubauer was commenting critically on the political situation of his day. The addition "...and still no peace" refers to the fact that even in 1956, no peace treaty had been signed yet between Germany and the victorious Allies. This has almost been forgotten today, and has little significance in today's politics. Unresolved questions were settled in 1990 in the "Two-Plus-Four Treaty," as part of the process of Reunification.

"Sebalder Steppe", Friedrich Neubauer, 1946, From the collection of: The City of Nuremberg's Art Collections, Nuremberg Municipal Museums

The work to clear the rubble ("Rama-Dama" Campaigns – dialect for "We're cleaning up") resulted in rather large vacant areas. The one known as the "Sebalder Steppe" was a part of the Old Town between Theresienstrasse and Hans-Sachs-Platz that looked more like a desert than a city. New housing construction did not start here until 1952. As early as 1945, the US military government had ordered homeowners and residents to remove rubble from the streets. But bomb craters and vacant lots persisted for years.

Sebalduskirche, Friedrich Neubauer, about 1946, From the collection of: The City of Nuremberg's Art Collections, Nuremberg Municipal Museums

It took many years, but the ruined choir of St. Sebald's Church was finally rebuilt. The Moritz Chapel situated next to the Gothic cathedral had already been entirely destroyed in 1944 and was never restored.

St. Sebald, Friedrich Neubauer, 1979, From the collection of: The City of Nuremberg's Art Collections, Nuremberg Municipal Museums

It took until 1979 for St. Sebald's Church to recover its full former glory. This architectural jewel is an especially noteworthy example of the astonishing success story of Nuremberg's reconstruction. That same year was the 600th anniversary of the construction of the church's hall choir. Although the name of the medieval architect is unknown, this is a masterpiece of the International Gothic style, with the most extensive cycle of stained glass windows in Europe.

St. Lorenzkirche, Friedrich Neubauer, 1953/57 (?), From the collection of: The City of Nuremberg's Art Collections, Nuremberg Municipal Museums

Friedrich Neubauer took part in rebuilding the church, which was next to his parental home, by designing modern rose windows for the West Façade. But the windows were never produced; instead, the medieval designs were reconstructed. The church was back in use by 1950, just five years after it was badly damaged.

The Old Rathaus, "Wolff‘scher Bau", Friedrich Neubauer, 1970, From the collection of: The City of Nuremberg's Art Collections, Nuremberg Municipal Museums

The Rathaus – the Town Hall – whose interior was burnt out to the foundations, was one of the outstanding architectural achievements of the former Free Imperial City of Nuremberg. From the exterior the building, reconstructed in Renaissance style after 1945, betrays hardly any idea that today its interior is entirely new construction.

The building's Great Hall was gradually restored to its original form. The reconstruction of the barrel vault was funded by an association, Altstadtfreunde e.V. The Old Rathaus is an almost unparalleled example of how the city's administration managed the feat of preserving the old yet marrying it with the new.

View of the Rathaus and Choir of St. Sebald, Friedrich Neubauer, about 1961, From the collection of: The City of Nuremberg's Art Collections, Nuremberg Municipal Museums

The artist's photograph shows how faithfully he documented reconstruction. Nevertheless he considered photography a crutch, with no artistic value of its own. Instead, a photograph was often more a record of a memory or a mere snapshot. Using a pencil or etching point, on the other hand, he created images that went beyond mere documentary purposes.

Picture credit: Nuremberg Municipal Archives

Pellerhaus, Friedrich Neubauer, 1957, From the collection of: The City of Nuremberg's Art Collections, Nuremberg Municipal Museums

The interior courtyard of this splendid Nuremberg burgher's house has been under reconstruction by the Verein Altstadtfreunde e.V. association since 2006, and serves today as a site for cultural events. But the association's desire to remove the 1950s-era structure and reconstruct the entire façade remains unrealizable under today's laws that protect historical monuments. Nevertheless, the city and its citizens have reached a compromise: a neighboring building will be rebuilt in the style of the 16th century.

Egidienberg, Friedrich Neubauer, March 17, 1964, From the collection of: The City of Nuremberg's Art Collections, Nuremberg Municipal Museums

In their future designs for the plaza, urban planners of the 21st century should pay equal attention to both its history and the needs of a new public who has hitherto made little use of this space. The function and use of the new Pellerhaus will play a significant role in planning of any kind, so as to bring the area to life. The square's history is evidence that the question of reconstruction remains as topical as ever, and still seems unresolved even 75 years after the war ended.

Josefsplatz, Friedrich Neubauer, January 20, 1954, From the collection of: The City of Nuremberg's Art Collections, Nuremberg Municipal Museums

Almost offhandedly, Friedrich Neubauer sketched "his" city as it underwent permanent changes. The expansion of Josefsplatz, completed in 1954, demonstrates the warmth he felt for modern architecture that did a good job of meeting its residents' needs. But "stenograms" like this were probably meant not for publication, but for private use.

Demolition of a Building (Brauerei Reif) on Lorenzer Strasse, Friedrich Neubauer, 1969, From the collection of: The City of Nuremberg's Art Collections, Nuremberg Municipal Museums

Today this district is home to the headquarters of a bank, Stadtsparkasse Nürnberg. The alley between the buildings was built over, and today serves only for pedestrian traffic. The "car-friendly city" began taking precedence in the 1970s over protecting historical structures, even where sensitive areas of the Old Town were concerned.

The Former Reif Brewery on Lorenzer Strasse, Friedrich Neubauer, about 1969, From the collection of: The City of Nuremberg's Art Collections, Nuremberg Municipal Museums

The diversity of Neubauer's subjects, themes and styles are unique in the history of Nuremberg art. Neubauer proves to be an eyewitness who knowingly applies every available technique to document the plans for reconstruction and their execution. It's often possible to trace the locations and times when his works were made just by comparing his various pictures.

Picture credit: Nuremberg Municipal Archives

Main Market Square with Frauenkirche and the New Rathaus, Friedrich Neubauer, undated, From the collection of: The City of Nuremberg's Art Collections, Nuremberg Municipal Museums

The square known at Christmas time as the "Christkindlesmarkt" is both the center of the business and commercial district, and the historic "heart" of the Old Town. Devastation and the necessary reconstruction were especially serious matters here. The architecture surrounding the "Schöner Brunnen" fountain (which had been enveloped in a concrete shell during the war) and the rebuilt Frauenkirche had to keep ambitions modest. One example is the sleek façade of the New Rathaus. In retrospect, imitating the lost buildings by adopting their rooflines, heights and window lines proved to be the right choice.

Photo collage of the Main Market Square, Friedrich Neubauer, 1969, From the collection of: The City of Nuremberg's Art Collections, Nuremberg Municipal Museums

The inscription on this photo collage makes it easier for a present-day viewer to date it. Neubauer's strategic approach shows that he was quite intentionally preparing his documentation for posterity. The unconventional way he went about that is shown in his choice of a collage technique to reconstruct the view.

Picture credit: Nuremberg Municipal Archives

Main Market Square in Nuremberg, Friedrich Neubauer, October 6, 1969, From the collection of: The City of Nuremberg's Art Collections, Nuremberg Municipal Museums

Rebuilding the Main Market Square was a major achievement for the City of Nuremberg. Several competitions yielded, step by step, new structures that neither copied the old ones, nor tried to outshine the Frauenkirche.

"Rebuilding Nuremberg Old Town," Main Market Square, Friedrich Neubauer, 1974, From the collection of: The City of Nuremberg's Art Collections, Nuremberg Municipal Museums

Today this picture of a Main Market Square with cars and parking spaces is almost a trigger for nostalgia. The view along the street from the Schöner Brunnen to the Imperial Castle was one of Neubauer's favorite subjects, on which he constantly rang new variations.

"This is the Old Town in Nuremberg", Friedrich Neubauer, 1965, From the collection of: The City of Nuremberg's Art Collections, Nuremberg Municipal Museums

By 1965, most of the historically significant buildings – most notably the two main churches, the Imperial Castle, and the severely damaged Frauenkirche – had been rebuilt at last. After 20 years of construction work, this was a significant milestone. Friedrich Neubauer probably still had no idea how long reconstruction would actually take – it is still not entirely complete even today.

"This is what humanity wants...", Friedrich Neubauer, 1965, From the collection of: The City of Nuremberg's Art Collections, Nuremberg Municipal Museums

With this pronouncement, Friedrich Neubauer departs from his good-humored view of life after 1945. He draws "his Nuremberg" from memory, in pencil. As he well knows, it is no longer what it once was. Yet the years of reconstruction were a hopeful new beginning for him, which would now give way to a fatalistic, melancholy mood. He would continue recording the evolution of his birthplace with pencil and brush until his death in 2004.

Expressionist Self-Portrait, Friedrich Neubauer, 1931/32, From the collection of: The City of Nuremberg's Art Collections, Nuremberg Municipal Museums

A brief biography of Friedrich Neubauer

1912: Born in Nuremberg. son of businessman Friedrich Julius Neubauer

1932-37: Studies architecture at Munich and Stuttgart Technical Universities; student of Paul Schmitthenner and Paul Bonatz

1937: Graduates with degree of Dipl.-Ing. (Graduate Engineer)

1940: Appointed Reich Master Builder

Neubauer was suspended from service for several years after 1945 because of his membership in the Nazi party. During this "downtime," he worked mainly in applied arts, producing numerous designs for home interiors, furniture, theater sets, fashions and commercial graphics.

1949-73: Architect for the Nuremberg Postal Directorate

After retirement, he worked solely as an artist into advanced old age, producing not only architectural drawings but assemblages, collages, toy designs, etc.

2004: Dies in Nuremberg

Since 2004, the artist's niece, Claudia Schweizer, has been organizing his life's work. The Art Collections of the City of Nuremberg are grateful to her for a generous donation that reflects Neubauer's astonishingly diverse oeuvre.

Credits: Story

Text and choice of images: Dr. Birgit Rauschert
Implementation: Brigitte List


More information about the artist can be found in the catalog raisonné
Claudia Schweizer: Friedrich Neubauer
Architekt. Maler. Grafiker.
Seubert Verlag, Marktoberdorf 2017
978-3-947092-01-7

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not represent the views of the institutions whose collections include the featured works or of Google Arts & Culture.
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