DONALD BAECHLER · JOSEPH BEUYS · KARL BLOSSFELDT · JAMES BROWN · PAUL CÉZANNE · DR. WOLFF + ALFRED TRITSCHLER · ERNST FUHRMANN / FOLKWANG-AURIGA-VERLAG · ALBERTO GIACOMETTI · KOZO HARAMOTO · ALEX KATZ · PETER KEETMAN · PAUL KLEE · HEINRICH KÜHN · FERNAND LÉGER · HENRI MATISSE · OLAF METZEL · LÁSZLÓ MOHOLY-NAGY · KIYOSHI NIIYAMA · PABLO PICASSO · ARNULF RAINER · ALBERT RENGER-PATZSCH · PHILIPP OTTO RUNGE · JOSEF SUDEK · ERNST FUHRMANN / FOLKWANG-AURIGA-VERLAG · JITKA HANZLOVÁ · HEINRICH KÜHN · PABLO PICASSO & ANDRÉ VILLERS · HANS-CHRISTIAN SCHINK · CY TWOMBLY · ANDY WARHOL
About the exhibition
The exhibition project deals with a central theme of art history but one that is also a current political issue: the relations between mankind, nature and art. It was Joseph Beuys who noted succinctly in conversation with this author that until only a few decades ago man had needed to protect himself from nature, and now nature needs protection from man. Many ignorant politicians have become aware of this obvious insight only very late or not at all, continuing to give priority to commercial interests. Now nature is fighting back with climate change and an increasing number of natural catastrophes. As an artist, Beuys attempted repeatedly to sharpen our awareness of natural values. As one example of this, the project 7000 Oaks (documenta 7, 1982) became a milestone in recent art history. Looking back at European iconographic history since the Middle Ages, a long time passed before nature and its portrayal was attributed higher status. In Renaissance paintings, landscape served primarily as a background foil to portraits and religious images, often also as a necessary setting for hunting scenes. Landscape drawings were produced primarily for study purposes or from personal interest – independent of any commission. On the art market at that time they were considered of secondary importance. In Baroque painting, still- lifes played a greater role, as technically brilliant showpieces. The French term “nature morte” reflects their intention more precisely. In the 17th century the parameters changed as a result of landscape-accentuating paintings by Nicolas Poussin and above all by Claude Lorrain. His influence emerged not least in the design of English landscape parks, which took over from their strictly formal French and Italian predecessors and made artificially laid out, ideal landscapes of great beauty into the new standard. Around 100 years later landscape depiction (and also that of single trees and plants) experienced a previously unknown high point in Classicism and subsequent Romanticism. Parallel to this, an enormous upswing occurred in science, including in the field of botany through Carl von Linné, who published a basis for biological systematics with his “Systema Naturae”. The Enlightenment and associated secularization permitted a new view of nature. In Germany the standards were set by Caspar David Friedrich, Philipp Otto Runge, Gustav Carus and Carl Blechen, in England by William Turner and John Constable. In the case of our French neighbours the Barbizon group formed, including Camille Corot, Charles Daubigny, Jean-François Millet, Thédore Rousseau and Gustave Courbet. And a significant invention saw the light of day, quite literally, in the same temporal context as the Barbizon painters: photography. As from the early 1850s, in the forest of Fontainebleau photographers like Gustave Le Gray and Henri Le Secq captured their impressions through the perspective of their painter friends and using the possibilities of the new technology. And so, this unavoidably cursory look back at the pre-history to our exhibit comes to an end. It concentrates on comparable approaches to capturing the botanical world using the artistic means of painting, drawing and photography over the last 100 years. If this exhibition project succeeds in contributing to an appreciation of nature and its beauty as conveyed in the works of some significant artists, it will have achieved its ideal aim.