Hans Tombrock (July 21, 1895 Benninghofen “Dortmund”, Germany – August 18, 1966 Stuttgart, Germany) was a painter.
Tombrock was born as the youngest of 16 siblings and was named Christian Johann Rudolph. Hans became his nickname. Hans Tombrock was six times married and had seven children from these marriages.
At the age of 14, he began a training as a painter, which he broke after a week. Then he found work in a colliery. As a horse-boy, tug and assistant of the repairman. Here Tombrock began to draw. Tombrock escaped his work in the mine several times. He went to Hamburg, Bremerhaven and Antwerp and became a ship’s boy. At the age of 18 he hired on a Lloyddampfer and went to America.
At the beginning of the First World War, Tombrock volunteered for the Navy. He came to the Marine Corps in Flanders. In 1918 he deserted and became a participant of the November revolution in Kiel. At the end of the war he joined the Communist Party. He found work in the hut Hüttenwerk Phönix. However, he lost his job due to political speeches, which were regarded as inconsistent. During the unrest in 1919, he was arrested as a Spartakist leader. In 1920, he took part in the armed battles against the Kapp-Putsch and marched with the Red Ruhr Army in Dortmund. Subsequently, he was sentenced to a long prison term. It is speculated that he have shortened this by providing himself as an informer of the Reichswehr.
In 1924 Tombrock was released from custody. He began his vagabond life and wandered through Germany, Austria and Yugoslavia. He earned money by making drawings, which he sold for a bread, a plate of soup, or a few pfennigs. He got to know the objects of his art on the street: bums, whores, cripples, drunkards and vagrants. In 1928 he met Gregor Gog, the founder of the brotherhood of the vagabonds. Gog had a great influence on Tombrock. He gave him new creative and political impulses. Now he wanted to depict the suffering and fate of the poor and the oppressed in his art. Between 1929 and 1931 the first Eulenspiegel pictures were also created. On his wanderings, Tombrock was temporarily accompanied by the writer Paul Polte.
In 1933 Tombrock fled to Switzerland from the Nazis. In 1934 he traveled to the Canary Islands to recover from a lung disease. He finally migrated with his family to Sweden via Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Latvia and Estonia. There he settled in 1937 with his wife and child near Stockholm. The Nazis took his German citizen away.
In 1939 he met Bertolt Brecht at an antifascist discussion. Between the two developed a friendship and a collaboration which culminated in the illustration of Brecht’s life of Galileo. In 1941, Brecht emigrated to the USA, while Tombrock was denied entry into the USA. On October 10, 1946, Tombrock returned to Dortmund with his wife Tina and their daughter Solveig.
In 1947 he founded his School for Visual and Applied Arts in Dortmund.
In 1949 Tombrock went to the DDR and taught at the Weimar State College of Architecture and Visual Arts. From 1952 to 1953 he teaches at the University of Applied Arts in Berlin-Weißensee. Brecht also lived there since 1949. Both continued their collaboration.
In 1953, Tombrock left the DDR, whose ideological narrowness he could no longer endure, and went to the West with a large proportion of his pupils. He lived and worked as a freelance artist in Hamburg, Dortmund and Stuttgart, but also spent several times painting at the Canary Islands and Morocco.