The purpose of this website is to provide additional information about the life and work of German artist Bernhard Epple (1912-1999), whose World War II letters to his wife Gudrun are the central focus of the book An Artist as Soldier.
Bernhard Epple was born on October 11, 1912 in Eutingen/Baden (today part of the city of Pforzheim located at the gate of the Black Forest in Southwestern Germany. After graduating from the Oberrealschule in Pforzheim with the Abitur in 1932, he enrolled in the Badische Kunstgewerbeschule (Arts and Crafts School of Baden) in Pforzheim. Epple’s professional goal was to become a teacher of fine arts in the German secondary school system. Since the Kunstgewerbeschule did not offer the academic degree required to fulfill this goal, Epple transferred to the Badische Landeskunstschule, now Staatliche Akademie fur Bildende Kunste – State Academy for Fin Arts) in nearby Karlsruhe in 1934. Although his time at the Kunstgewerbeschule was short, he had the good fortune to study with the well-known artist, engraver and lithographer Adolf Hildebrand (1881-1944) who introduced him and furthered his love for the art and tradition of engraving. Epple graduated from the Academy in July 1938 and after a year as Referendar (student teacher at an academic high school in Karlsruhe he was assigned a position as Studienasessor (beginning teacher) at an academic high school in Mannheim in 1939.
In December 1939 Epple married, Gudrun Loeffler, a fellow student he had met at the Academy and the couple moved into a small apartment in Heidelberg, while Epple commuted to his teaching position in Mannheim, located some 20 kilometers to the West. The same year Epple’s career and married life were rudely interrupted when he was drafted into the German Army (Wehrmacht). He survived the war and returned to his home and family until October 1945. The couple’s two children Barbara and Ulrich were born during the war in 1940 and 1944 respectively.
During his time as a soldier Bernhard Epple wrote an unknown number of letters to his wife. Of these about one hundred survived the war and they are the central feature of this book. While Epple’s letters include many of the topics found in war letters by combatants throughout history, they are unusual in several respects. As an involuntary soldier and passionate art teacher and artist, Epple’s letters make few references to the war and his role as a soldier. Stationed in a part of Germany he had never visited, he took advantage of opportunities to observe the surrounding areas, visit museums, churches and libraries where he purchased art books throughout the war. He was also able to use his artistic talent to draw landscapes for his unit, design a mural, and even to engrave several plates for his own enjoyment. The letters are about the love for his wife, for his children and for his profession. [For more detailed biographical information you may consult the book].
For more information about the book, visit:
For examples of Epple’s art work visit: