Sebastian Droste

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Sebastian Droste (born Willÿ Knobloch; 2 February 1898 – 27 June 1927)[1] was a German poet, actor, and dancer associated with the underground art subculture of the Weimar Republic in the 1920s.

Droste relocated from his hometown of Hamburg to Berlin in 1919. He earned a living as a naked dancer, choreographer and expressionist poet. His first poem appeared in April edition of Der Sturm that same year, titled 'Tanz' (Dance).[2] A further 15 poems and ‘grotesques’ appeared across 12 editions of the journal alongside other artists and poets such as Kurt Schwitters and Paul Klee.[3] He alternated between publishing under the name Willy or Willi Knobloch. Also in 1919 he published a drama in the Dresden based expressionist journal Menschen.[4]

In 1922, Droste married expressionist exotic dancer and actress in silent movies of the Berlin scene, Anita Berber. She and Droste performed fantasias with titles such as "Suicide," "Morphium," and "Mad House". Droste appeared as a dancer in the silent movie Algol.

In 1923, Droste and Berber jointly published a book of poetry, photographs, and drawings called Die Tänze des Lasters, des Grauens und der Ekstase (Dances of Vice, Horror, and Ecstasy), based on their performance of the same name. Full of expressionist imagery, the book offered a glimpse into the angst and cynicism shadowing their artistic and personal existences. Their marriage ended in 1923.

In 1925, Droste met with photographer Francis Bruguière in New York City where he styled himself as Baron Willy Sebastian Knobloch Droste.[5] Together they composed over 60 photographs for a proposed expressionist film starring Drost tentatively titled The Way. UFA GmbH rejected the proposal and the photographs were instead published as part of a photographic journal in Die Dame in July 1925.

Droste was diagnosed with tuberculosis in early 1927. He returned to his parents' home in Hamburg, where he died on June 27 of the same year.


  1. ^ Hamburg, Germany, Deaths, 1874–1950
  2. ^ "Sturm, Der 10 April 1919 — Princeton Blue Mountain collection". Retrieved 2021-02-23.
  3. ^ "Sturm, Der 10 July 1919 — Princeton Blue Mountain collection". Retrieved 2021-02-23.
  4. ^ Toepfer, Karl (1997). Empire of Ecstasy: Nudity and Movement in German Body Culture, 1910-1935. Berkeley: University of California Press. p. 86.
  5. ^ New York, State and Federal Naturalization Records, 1794–1943


  • Capovilla, Andrea, "Anita Berber", Who's Who in Contemporary Gay and Lesbian History: From Antiquity to World War II. Robert Aldrich and Garry Wotherspoon, eds. (New York: Routledge, 2001), p. 50-51
  • Toepfer, Karl Eric, Empire of Ecstasy: Nudity and Movement in German Body Culture, 1910-1935 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997)
  • Droste, Sebastian (& Berber, Anita), Dances of Vice, Horror, and Ecstasy (A full translation from the German by Merrill Cole) (Newcastle upon Tyne: Side Real Press 2012)