Joseph Franz Pallenberg1882 - 1946
Born: August 6, 1882, Cologne, Germany
Died: June 26, 1946
It was Joseph Pallenberg's fascination with animals that led him to become a sculptor. From a young age, he collected animal specimens, both live and dead, for his own personal study; stories have been passed down about Pallenberg even using his unfortunate mother's laundry tub to boil animal meat off the bone in order to obtain skeletons for reconstruction.
Sculpting was a natural outgrowth from his collecting and research habits that began with creating plaster casts of skulls and other remains. When Pallenberg was about eighteen years old, around 1899, he began classes in drawing and sculpture at the Dusseldorf Akademie, having settled in the city of Dusseldorf. Little information survives regarding his school years, though Pallenberg apparently finished his formal education by 1904. After this time, he traveled extensively throughout Germany, visiting the zoological gardens in major cities such as Berlin and Hamburg, where he sketched and even photographed animals to translate into sculpture. Pallenberg preferred to focus on large mammals such as deer and elk for his subject matter.
One of his first artistic successes came in 1907, when his life-size Bugling Stag won a gold medal at the German National Art Exhibition. Dusseldorf, the exhibition's host city, bought the sculpture, placing it on permanent display in 1908. 1909 brought a reported visit to New York, and at about this time, Pallenberg also began building his own private zoo at home in Dusseldorf.
Throughout the later years of his life and career, Pallenberg continued to create sculpture and exhibit. The scientific community valued his work because he painstakingly strived to sculpt true-to-life images. In fact, Pallenberg's sculpture of the once-endangered "David's deer" species helped raise awareness throughout the zoological world of the need to rescue these creatures from the brink of extinction. Because of his knowledge about animals in captivity, Pallenberg was also commissioned to design actual enclosures at several zoos, just as he was asked to create decoration for others of these institutions; zoos in Detroit, Michigan and Cincinnati, Ohio, for example, consulted Pallenberg about creating "free-range" compounds on their grounds.
Unfortunately, much of Pallenberg's original sculpture is only known today through photographs, sketches, and casts, as it was widely destroyed in World War II, and the artist himself died shortly thereafter. Because of this destruction, Pallenberg's fame as a significant animalier sculptor has been largely forgotten, as well. Very little literature has been dedicated to his work, especially in English language editions, although a significant amount of his personal working materials are currently under the care of Dusseldorf's Loebbecke Museum in an archival and research collection.