04 July 2015

An interesting premise for an exhibition

One of our sunny-day lakeside trips in Berlin was to the Max Liebermann villa in Wannsee. It's a very popular place to visit, and no wonder. Not only was Liebermann a collector of impressionist paintings, and one of Germany's most important painters around 1900, but the house has a beautiful setting and an interesting history.
View of Wannsee from the terrace
View of house from lakeside
Back garden from an upstairs window
Liebermann had this summer house built in 1909 and produced 200 paintings here. He died in 1935, and in 1940  his widow was required to sign over the house to the Nazi state and it became a training centre of women workers in the post office. After her suicide on the eve of deportation, Liebermann's famous art collection was seized.

Subsequently the villa was used as a municipal hospital and Liebermann's studio as an operating theatre. In 1958 the dauther, Kaethe, sold the house back to Berlin, after which it housed a diving club. By 2006, consequent on the establishment of a Max Liebermann Society, the house started to be restored and is now open to a grateful public. The sizeable grounds contain a series of hedged "garden rooms" as well as, to the rear, a kitchen garden neatly planted in the French style.

Upstairs is, until 10 August, an exhibition entitled Liebermann and Van Gogh. They were both painting in the same area of the Netherlands, Drenthe, in 1882, and could so easily have met - in fact Van Gogh travelled to go see Liebermann after his brother told him about Liebermann's painting, "The Bleaching Field" (Vincent felt a great affinity with the German painter’s choice of subject and colour in capturing the nature of Drenthe) ... but three days earlier, Liebermann had left. Although the exhibition focussed in on a non-event, it was interesting to see the two painters' treatment of the same subjects side by side.
Orchard in Drenthe by Liebermann
... and by Van Gogh

Women sewing
... by Van Gogh
... and by Liebermann
Between 1882 and 1885, both painted peasants working in the fields, women sewing at the window, and weavers making cloth. Their subsequent histories are rather different - Liebermann went on to become an established portrait painter and honorary president of the Prussian Artists' Society, though after 1920 most of his paintings were of his garden at the villa.

No comments: