About the Life of Gerhard Reisch and his Work


Gerhard Reisch was born on 19th January 1899 in Grünberg in Lower Silesia (then Germany, now part of Poland) as the youngest love child with two sisters and a brother. His father was a grain dealer, baker, and owner of a water mill outside the town, with a farm and cattle. There he grew up in protected natural surroundings. Both parents were devout and every day, mornings and evenings, house prayers were said. All the children were musically gifted and played piano, harmonium and violin at home; and his mother loved to sing. In his fourth year he narrowly escaped drowning in the mill race, being saved by his brother. On his fourth birthday he looked out at the snow covered landscape and dreamed that he would become a painter.


Owing to the very arduous work, his father died aged 56 in 1908. His mother continued the business with her two daughters through the First World War until 1919. Like his brother, he undertook a teacher training in Freystadt and Sagan, which was a suffering for him, because of the abstract content of his studies. His training was interrupted in 1917 when he was called up to serve in the field artillery at Königsberg and Gumbinnen in Prussia. In 1918 in the attack on France he went into the trenches at the front line, where he had an inner experience which affected him deeply, pointing the way and giving him the decisive impetus to explore the deepest questions of life.




After he had completed the teacher training in 1919, he worked as a labourer in the coal mines of Grünberg. Then in November 1921, having saved enough money for two months, he followed his artistic calling by enrolling to study at the Breslau Academy of Art. He often joined the beggars for his meals in the community welfare kitchens. During holidays he fulfilled small commissions (ink drawings) for a newspaper. In 1926 he graduated together with his fiancée Editha Gröger (1902-1968) to whom he had secretly become engaged, and who became his wife in 1927.





The unfavourable circumstances of the times could not influence his innermost search for deeper understanding. Thus already in 1923 he found his way into Anthroposophy, as a student of Rudolf Steiner's work. After suffering the loss of his artistic capacities, he began anew in January 1927, following the advice of Max Wolffhügel (1880-1963), to carry out meditative exercises with charcoal and colour. Quite soon he experienced progress, a growing brightness on the inner planes and the awakening of new faculties. Until 1934/35 he undertook research into artistic media, in order to develop techniques for a new art of painting.



In 1930, filled with deep respect, Gerhard Reisch found a spiritual mentor in Kurt Walter (1874-1940), who advised him to build a house in view of the difficult times that were to be expected. In 1932, followiing this advice, and taking part himself in all aspects of the work, he built together with Frau Editha a small country house on a hill at the edge of the forest near Grünberg, in which already in the Autumn of 1932 they could accommodate their first guests. Building work continued, the garden was cultivated, pictures were painted, friends were cared for. Frau Editha was happy and strong. There were visitors almost all the year round, and for twelve years until 1944/45 a wonderful, protected time gradually unfolded.



In 1932 Gerhard Reisch took up an invitation to exhibit in the Rijksmuseum in Delft, and was kept so busy with commissions until April 1933, that he seriously considered staying there, but he did not. Already in 1933/34 pictures of inner soul experiences were created. The death of his mother in 1935 was a deep shock, but he experienced her continued accompaniment inwardly. In 1936 the "great journey" began, into spirit realms, as well as on the earth. Twice annually until 1944 he travelled for three to four weeks at a time with some 150 pictures, e.g. to Breslau, Liegnitz, Hirschberg, Dresden, Berlin, Königsberg, Hamburg.





In February 1945 the Russian Front arrived. The country house, together with his complete Works (some 200 pictures) was destroyed. For four weeks in a closed wagon with scarcely any food he was transported to Dnipropetrowsk (Ukraine) for a nine month incarceration in a prison camp. Most of his companions in suffering became ill and died from hunger. After a return journey of four weeks in an open wagon again with scarcely any food, he was released in October 1945 in Frankfurt by the River Oder. Then travelling through rain and fog Gerhard Reisch reached Berlin on 1st November, and went straight to Frau Walther (born Selling) in Motzstrasse 17 (where Rudolf and Marie Steiner had also lived from 1903 until 1923). From there he found his way to his wife Editha in a small remote village in Mecklenburg “in rags, without money or food ... [almost] died there from exhaustion”.




Instead of resisting his destiny he pursued the “uncomfortable, steep path”, which led him further into spiritual realms. Despite his weakened physical state he overcame the hardest difficulties. So they moved to his sister in Wittenberg, where he worked as a book binder's assistant, and then on to a suburb of Berlin, experiencing hunger and cold. Friends asked him to work with them. At New Year 1948/9 the first pictures of the Guardians were created. Outwardly they experienced the deepest misery. In 1950 they moved to Kaiserdamm to build up the work with anthroposophy: Occult Science - An Outline, Theosophy, basic principles, the Mystery Dramas, as well as working with the pictures on Sundays. Once again journeys to West Germany with the pictures took place annually. In 1956 a critical health crisis occurred because of the transportation.




Following a proposal by Ernst Lippold (1913-1996) they moved to Freiburg. Finally, through continuous patronage of a few friends, their financial difficulties were resolved. So far in his life Gerhard Reisch had moved his domicile about 30 times. In 1962 the diverging of their respective life paths led to a separation by mutual agreement from Frau Editha. She moved to Mannheim and in May 1968, in Munich, she crossed the threshold.






Now because of continual meetings and teaching activities Gerhard Reisch could not find the necessary peace to recreate his artistic work. He also experienced great loneliness. AnneGret Helmert (1926-2006), whom he first became acquainted with as a school girl in Grünberg, appeared again in Freiburg, and invested herself tirelessly on his behalf. Since leaving Grünberg she had also been through the most difficult experiences, and so became his second life partner, being willing to make the greatest sacrifices demanded by his path. In 1965 the newly married couple moved to live with AnneGret's father in Waldkirch. Now the artistic Work, which only really existed as sketches, could be recreated without disturbances.




Once again in 1970 Gerhard Reisch overcame a difficult illness, unceasingly accompanied by AnneGret, under the most difficult circumstances whilst her father also lay dying. Afterwards they occupied themselves mainly with the publication of some of his texts accompanied by colour reproductions of relevant pictures, as for example From the Realm of Elemental Beings, A Path of Knowledge in Pictures, and A Book of the Dead.

His Life Work grew to the most beautiful fulfillment. Unrecognised, yet in peace and humility, honoured by many friends, and with a deep love and empathy for his fellow human beings, his gaze directed towards the Christ, Gerhard Reisch entered the world of spirit on 11th February 1975.



Increasingly, searching for a meeting with the creative endeavour of this individuality, people came who wanted to work with his pictures, for the formative character of his Life Work, although secured, has not remained hidden. A friend placed his house in Eichbergstrasse in Freiburg at the disposal of the Work. Although AnneGret was not used to dealing with worldly matters, she strove to bring all interests into harmony. Gradually she grew into her new task, and more and more came to be experienced as the mediator of the Work of Gerhard Reisch.




In 1981 AnneGret established the Gerhard Reisch Foundation, in order to protect his Complete Life Work for the future. The following years continued to be marked by a struggle amongst the friends in relation to the Work. Again and again new and old friends found their way to the Work, wishing to engage themselves in the mediation of his Life Work to the world. In 1998 AnneGret fulfilled her wish to live near Meersburg by Lake Constance. After the 100th Anniversary Celebration of the birthday of Gerhard Reisch with a large exhibition in Albertus Magnus House in Freiburg in 1999, his estate followed her there. She accompanied all the new developments concerning the Life Work of Gerhard Reisch as a member of the board of trustees until the end of her life in September 2006. Now one of the last wishes of AnneGret Reisch comes to fulfilment with the publishing, once again, of this portfolio From the Realm of Elemental Beings.

From the Archive of the Gerhard Reisch Foundation