Combat Gallery Sunday : The Martial Art of Claus Bergen

Much as once a week I like to take time off to cover warships (Wednesdays), on Sundays (when I feel like working), I like to cover military art and the painters, illustrators, sculptors, and the like that produced them.

Combat Gallery Sunday : The Martial Art of Claus Bergen

Born 18 April 1885 in Stuttgart, Claus Friedrich Bergen was a product of Kaiserian Imperial Germany. Studying at the at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich, under the American-born master Carl von Marr, young Claus shined.

By his 22nd birthday had been selected to illustrate Karl May’s classic Teutonic fiction novels about Winnetou, the wise chief of the Apaches and Old Shatterhand, Winnetou’s white blood brother in the American Old West and Kara Ben Nemsi and his manservant Hadschi Halef Omar in the Sahara and Far East.

As May’s works were sold in upwards of 200 million copies, the more than 400 illustrations that Bergen did between 1907-14 for these books have been seen world wide.

winnetou Claus Bergen CordillerenS475 Claus Bergen CordillerenS114 0_d49d0_4e95601_XXXL

When the war came, Bergen was appointed as a naval artist to the Kaiserliche Marine and, in the weeks and months following the pivotal Battle of Jutland, created some of his best work.

High Seas Fleet setting sail 31 May 1916

High Seas Fleet setting sail 31 May 1916

German battleships passing Heligoland

German battleships passing Heligoland

SMS-Grosse-Kurfurst-

SMS-Grosse-Kurfurst-

German battleships in action

German battleships in action

Bridge of SMS Markgraf

Bridge of SMS Markgraf

Hipper leaving Lutzow for SMS Moltke

Hipper leaving Lutzow for SMS Moltke

Inside a battleship main turret

Inside a battleship main turret

German destroyers attack the British battleship line at Jutland 31 May

German destroyers attack the British battleship line at Jutland 31 May

SMS-Seydlitz seeing what hell looks like

SMS-Seydlitz seeing what hell looks like

Night action

Night action

SMS- Thuringen and HMS Black Prince

SMS Thuringen lighting up HMS Black Prince

The Kaiser addressing the High Seas fleet after Jutland

The Kaiser addressing the High Seas fleet after Jutland

In 1917, Bergen embarked on tiny SM U-53, a 213-foot Type 51 unterseeboot conned by legendary Fregattenkapitän Hans Rose, who won both the Pour le Mérite and the Ritterkreuz for sending a staggering 79 Allied ships to the bottom of the Atlantic (including six while bobbing off the Nantucket Lightship in 1916) and went to sea on a two month war cruise. The images he saw in the heavy seas were burned into his memory and he committed them to canvas for posterity.

In den Wellenbergen

In den Wellenbergen

Claus Bergen 4-1b35337784183493e6c573246631dde7 Claus Bergen 3

U-53 in the summer of 1917

U-53 in the summer of 1917

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During WWII, Bergen, then in his 50s, was a party member and one of the Reich’s favored painters. He continued working, composing military subjects on the list of those approved by Berlin.

Battleship Schlesig-Holstein on 1st-September 1939 fires the first naval shots of the War at Danzig

Battleship Schlesig-Holstein on 1st-September 1939 fires the first naval shots of the War at Danzig

1942 U-boot Type IX

1942 U-boot Type IX

Prinz Eugen at Denmark Strait Painting by Claus Bergen

Prinz Eugen at Denmark Strait Painting by Claus Bergen

Dornier Flugboot X

Dornier Flugboot X

After the war, he escaped his Nazi party associations and, living in West Germany at 8172 Lenggries/OBB, painted simple sea scenes and landscapes…

Mit Wind und Wellen

Mit Wind und Wellen

Though he did paint the cover of the 1950s board-game Bismarck, one of the most popular in the U.S. at the time.

pic21496

He donated several large pieces to U.S. and British public museums and the Admiralty after the Second World War, many of which are on display around the UK. He is also celebrated, of course, by the Karl May Society and others. The Hellmann Art Gallery in Munich contains a large body of his more famous works.

Dr. Bergen was impressed with the President John F. Kennedy’s 1963 visit to Germany (Ich bin ein Berliner) and wanted to present him with one of his paintings because of the President’s love of the sea and maritime art. His gift, The Atlantic, shows the windswept Atlantic at twilight and hung in the Atlantic Room of the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum for years, making Bergen possibly the only artist to have presented canvas to Kaiser Wilhelm, Hitler and JFK.

Bergen died 4 October 1964 in Lenggries, Bavaria at age 79.

For more Bergen pieces on Jutland, see British Battle’s excellent series of articles on the clash.

Thank you for your work, sir.

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About laststandonzombieisland

Let me introduce myself. I am a bit of a conflict junkie. I am fascinated by war and warfare, assassination, personal protection and weaponry ranging from spud guns and flame throwers to thermonuclear bombs and Soviet-trained Ebola monkeys. In short, if it’s violent or a tool to create violence it is kind of my thing. I have written a few thousand articles on the dry encyclopedia side for such websites as Guns.com, University of Guns, Outdoor Hub, Tac-44, History Times, Big Game Hunter, Glock Forum, Firearms Talk.com, and Combat Forums; as well as for print publications like England Expects, and Strike First Strike Fast. Several magazines such as Sea Classics, Military Historian and Collector, Mississippi Sportsman and Warship International have carried my pieces. Additionally I am on staff as a naval consultant and writer for Eye Spy Intelligence Magazine. Currently I am working on several book projects including an alternative history novel about the US-German War of 1916, and a biography of Southern gadfly and soldier of fortune Bennett Doty. My first novel, about the coming zombie apocalypse was released in 2012 by Necro Publications and can be found at Amazon.com as was the prequel, Chimera-44. I am currently working on book two of that series: "Pirates of the Zombie Coast." In my day job I am a contractor for the U.S. federal government in what could best be described as the ‘Force Protection’ field. In this I am an NRA-certified firearms, and less-than-lethal combat instructor.

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