“I don’t think I know any German artists” said a Bridge-playing friend. “How about Holbein?” I asked, thinking he might remember the portraits of Henry VIII. “No.” “How about Dürer?” – such a brilliant engraver. “Never heard of him.” … “Bauhaus?” “No.” – End of conversation!
Well, German Art may be unfamiliar to most of us, but how about iconic buildings? Can you identify the buildings pictured?
Topics covered so far include 19th century Romanticism (Caspar David Friedrich), Biedermeier (household styles), the Blue Rider (Kandinsky), and Vienna Secession (Klimt). Still to come: Baroque & Rococo, medieval manuscript illustration, Renaissance-Humanism, Bauhaus, and sculpture – half of these pre-sented by Group members.
One general insight we’ve gained is how much more of a political issue Art is in Germany than England. It’s hard to imagine any Government here condemning thousands of paintings as “degenerate”, as happened during the Third Reich. Equally, whilst we can respect (maybe even admire) the artistic ideals of Socialist Realism, they would never be made normative, as happened in the German Democratic Republic. Should Art be political? – When used for satire, certainly, it is as political in this country as in Germany.
One of our highlights was a family treasure loaned to a member for our enjoyment: a brilliant set of etchings by Moritz von Schwind depicting the Marriage of Figaro (1825). Schwind was a late Romantic, honoured in the Art world as an exemplar of his period. The Marriage of Figaro originals were inherited by a Viennese Professor from whom they were stolen by the Nazis. As part of the restitution process after the War, the originals were put up for auction at Sotheby’s and bought back by Vienna’s Museum of Art. The family however did retain this lovely limited-edition set of copies.
And let’s not forget a couple of local Austrian-English connections. The great Expressionist painter Oscar Kokoschka, one of many Nazi-period refugees, spent part of the war in Polperro; for 27 years he even had an English passport. Another local connection is the 18C Swiss-born painter Angelica Kauffman who lived for a decade at Saltram House and became a founder-member of our Royal Academy. Not household names maybe, but their work is honoured both here and in the German-speaking lands.
Answers: Reichstag Neuschwanstein Valhalla Cologne Cathedral