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Ursula Brodauf

Ursula Brodauf was born in Gruenhainichen, a small German town, near the Czech border, in 1926. An expressionist sculptor, her work balances light and shadow, yin and yang. She passed away in Salt Lake City, Utah on May 14, 2011. Her Obituary is available here.

When she was 14, Brodauf began a woodcarving apprenticeship with Emil Helbig, but she found the work repetitive and stated her desire to be a sculpture to her teacher. Two years later she received a scholarship to study sculpture. In 1948, she arrived in West Berlin to study at the Academy of Art where Marc Chagall, Henry Moore, and Alexander Calder were visiting instructors. The Academy of Art was the first art school to foster the expressionist school of art where her instructors were Klakow, Seltz, and VanVerk, who were all members of the Bauhaus School. 

In 1950, Brodauf directed the design of the Colorphone Agfa Film Company's stage sets. She was traveling to Hollywood when she stopped in Salt Lake to visit a friend and decided to continue her artistic pursuits.  Duality (1989), a bronze, was awarded the Museum Purchase from the Springville Museum of Art in 1990.  Alter Ego and Freedom are other examples of her work.

Biographical information on this page was adapted from Artists of Utah and information supplied by the artist.

Ursula Brodauf was born in Guenhainichen, a small town renowned for its woodcarvers, near the Czech border (Brittner-Mahyera 1986). In her youth, Brodauf remembers that her family resisted the strong Nazi influence that infiltrated Europe. Brodauf's father, whom she describes as a “practical and quite intelligent“ iconoclast, refused to follow along with the Nazis' plans (McEntire 2000). Brodauf remembers that her parents lost everything when she was little, yet her mother kept teaching her how to appreciate the fine arts. Remembering her mother, Brodauf said “She only allowed classical music to be played in the house. I knew opera as a tiny hild, but nothing else“ (McEntire 2000).

When she was only fourteen years of age, Brodauf began apprenticing under master woodcarver Emil Helbig. In spite of this specialized training, Ursula retained a strong desire to be a sculptor. Two years after explaining to her teacher that she wanted to become a sculpture, she received a scholarship to study this art. Only after World War II could she experience artistic freedom and follow her creative impulses. During the Third Reich, all art forms with the exception of realism had been banned as decadent. During the post-war occupation of East Berlin by the Soviets, Brodauf crossed into West Berlin three times under gunfire in order to transport her belongings and supplies to the school there. Her first load of possessions was stolen. “I got smarter each time,“ Brodauf said in retrospect of her experience (McEntire 2000). Perhaps as a test of her patience and perseverance, after her dangerous travels across the trans-Berlin barrier, she was denied acceptance into the school she planned to attend. In the mean time, Brodauf would reside in West Berlin yet another year working odd jobs and living in substandard housing.

Finally, her diligence and hard work paid off when she was accepted to the academy and began her rigorous curriculum of studio work, drawing assignments, anatomy lessons, and art history lectures. She also met with visiting artists, such as Marc Chagall, Henry Moore, and Alexander Calder (McEntire 2000).

The Master School of Art (also know as the Academy of Art) in West Berlin was the first kind in Germany to foster Expressionism after the war, and with the resurging of artistic freedom, provided the setting for the artist's creative development. Brodauf's teachers there included sculptors Klakow, Seits, Sintenis, and Van Verkerk, some of them members of the famous Bauhaus School. After five years under their tutelage, she obtained her Master's Degree in sculpture from the Master School of Arts. Her work as a sculptor has continued to evolve in meaning and diversity (Brittner-Mahyera 1986).

By 1950, Ursula began designing the stage sets for the Colorphone Agfa Film Company, a skill she thought would make her marketable in the United States. Brodauf's sculpting career originally planned for her emigration to Los Angeles, but was cut short when she stopped in Salt Lake City to visit a friend on her way. Instead of settling in Hollywood, like she previously designed, Ms. Brodauf settled in Emigration Canyon (McEntire 2000). Brodauf's artistic output is still guided by two statements made by a teacher of hers in West Berlin. They are as follows:

“Don't piddle around. Do big things. Work has to be bigger than you.“ (McEntire 2000). “You have to be possessed. I don't want anyone in this class who isn't possessed with their work.“ (McEntire 2000).

Ursula Brodauf's work evokes a mood, contemplation, and stirring of the soul. She is a master sculptor who understands the nature of her medium - its strengths, weaknesses and possibilities. She creates but does not control, thereby allowing her sculptures to emerge into their own. The artist's work is quietly bold; bare simplicity. Each sculptured art piece is stripped of unnecessary details, leaving a form that is pure, like a haiku poem. Her figures reflect sensitive awareness to the spirit of life; the abstract forms offer a quiet repose for the intellect (Brittner-Mahyera 1986).

Apparent throughout her work is a sense of balance and duality, a yin-yang of opposites. The soft embraces the hard, the bold embraces the simple. The opposing forces, in compliment, are united into a wholeness that hints of perfection and sensibility (Brittner-Mahyera 1986).Public displays of Ursula Brodauf's sculptures can be found in exhibits from Utah to Germany, including displays at the University of Utah, the Salt Palace Convention Center, the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, College Saint Scholastica, Duluth, Minnesota, and at Hochschule fuer Technic und Wissenschaft (College for Engineering and Science), Offenburg, Germany.

For more information on the artist contact:

Biography courtesy Artists of Utah and the artist.

Newspaper Articles

"Coming Up: Visual Arts." The Salt Lake Tribune, September 17, 2000.

"Line, Form, Color Highlight Show." The Deseret News, October 29, 2000.

"Sculpture Donated to Browning Plaza." Pulse, June 26, 1995.


Olpin, Robert S., William C. Seifrit, and Vern G. Swanson. Artists of Utah. Salt Lake City, UT: Gibbs Smith Publisher, 1999.

Swanson, Vern G., Robert S. Olpin, and William C. Seifrit. Utah Paintings and Sculpture. Salt Lake City, UT: Gibbs Smith Publishers, 1991.

Magazines Articles

McEntire, Frank. "Crossing Borders: The Painting and Sculpture of Ursula Brodauf and Pilar Pobil." Salt Lake City, May/June 2000, 39-40.

 Last Modified 6/20/18