Anatol was born Karl-Heinz Herzfeld in 1931, in Insterburg, East Prussia. During World War II, the family fled from Polish and Soviet troops and moved to West Germany. Herzfeld started an apprenticeship as a blacksmith and, from 1964 to 1972, was a student at the Art Academy Düsseldorf. He focused on sculpture, studying with Joseph Beuys, and also became a student of architect Karl Wimmerauer. Moreover, Anatol also took part in the »ring talks,« discussions on art theory that were organized by the circle around Beuys. From 1979 to 1981, he taught at the Art Academy, Düsseldorf. Next to working as a freelance artist, Anatol then relied, until his retirement, on income from a position at the police traffic department. Starting in 1998, the artist who took his name from a figure in a Tolstoi novel also taught at the University of South Dakota, Vermillion.
Following his teacher Joseph Beuys, Anatol considered human activity to be a creative act, expressed in the motto: »Art is work – work is art.« The artistic relation to Beuys also manifested itself in a spectacular Action in 1973, in the Heimholung des Joseph Beuys / Bringing Home Joseph Beuys. In a dug-out canoe he had built himself, Anatol rowed his teacher who had been dismissed from the Art Academy from the left riverside across the Rhine to the Art Academy. Together with Ummo Francksen, president of the art society Kunstverein Oldenburg, with Don Lenzen, and Oldenburg sculptor Eckart Grenzer, Anatol founded the »Freie Akademie Oldenburg« / »Free Academy Oldenburg.« The academy was not seated in any fixed location. Instead, the artists involved worked in public space, provoking a dialogue with a new kind of art and drawing on the idea of Beuys’ FIU (Free International University). In various cities, they organized Arbeitszeiten / Working Hours that always integrated the audience.
Since 1982, Anatol has lived and worked on the Museumsinsel Hombroich (Museum Island Hombroich Foundation), founded by realtor Karl-Heinrich Müller to display his art collection. The museum developed a new system of presentation based on the notion of »art as parallel to nature.« At the invitation of Müller, Anatol installed a house with a studio that emerged next to the sculpture-like exhibition pavilions of European and Asian art as part of the museum space. This became the space where he has been working on his »Gesamtkunstwerk« (»integrated/total artwork«) Mensch und Plastik / Human and Sculpture. His sculptures are created and displayed outdoors and closely interrelate with the landscape of the museum area. One of Anatol’s works is Kirche / Church, an installation of different-sized stones arranged in a circle. With their carved signs and symbols, the stones mark a walk-in space that appears archaic and sacred at the same time. Also, Parlament / Parliament, a circle made of twelve iron thrones arranged around a tree, emerged as a marker in the context of the island landscape, a marker that joins nature and culture.
Anatol’s preferred materials are iron, wood, and stone – natural materials. He also uses things found, like discarded shutters, barn doors, scrap metal, and construction rubble. For the artist, welcome discussions with visitors during working hours are a visible sign of the desired erasure of boundaries between art and life, artist and audience. In 1989, during the French bicentennial, Anatol staged an Arbeitszeit entitled The French Revolution beyond the space of the museum island. It was staged in front of the Germanische Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg and lasted for ten days. Engaged in an ongoing dialogue with passers-by, he worked three large granite boulders. They are placed on a steel plate. The boulders again carry carved inscriptions: Stein der Brüderlichkeit / Stone of Brotherhood, Tanz der Freiheit / Dance of Freedom, and Stein der Gleichheit / Stone of Equality.
In 1972, 1977, and 1982, Anatol participated in the Documenta, Kassel. Especially at the Documenta 6 (1977) he caused a stir with the Action Traumschiff Tante Olga/ Dreamship Aunt Olga, during which he was pulled from the North Sea through the river Weser and smaller channels all the way to Kassel on an oversized polyester object in the shape of a little paper boat. He arrived at his destination just in time for the opening of the exhibition. Various solo exhibitions were dedicated to Anatol’s work, among them exhibitions at the Ernst-Osthaus-Museum, Hagen (1979), at the Germanische Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg (1989), and at the Wilhelm-Hack-Museum, Ludwigshafen (1992).
Anatol lives and works on the Museumsinsel Hombroich.
Spuren suchen – legen – lesen, Anatol: Ausst.-Kat. Museum Bochum, hg. v. H. Brinkmann, Neuss 2001
Anatol – Lebenszeiten, Arbeitszeiten: Ausst.-Kat. Stiftung Insel Hombroich, hg. v. H. Brinkmann, Neuss 2001
Lovis-Corinth-Preis 1992 der Künstlergilde: Karl Heinz Herzfeld – Anatol: Ausst.-Kat. Museum Ostdeutsche Galerie Regensburg, Regensburg 1992
Anatol: Arbeitszeit Das Bleihaus: Ausst.-Kat. Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nürnberg 1987
Anatol, Bilder und Plastiken 1965 — 1985, Arbeitszeit: Ausst.-Kat. Kunstverein für die Rheinlande und Westfalen, Düsseldorf 1985
Anatol, Ergebnisse 64 — 78: Ausst.-Kat. Karl-Ernst-Osthaus-Museum, Hagen 1979
Anatol, Besuch bei Tante Olga in Dangast: Ausst.-Kat. Oldenburger Kunstverein, Oldenburg 1975