Das Wasser und die Kunst


verlängert bis zum 12. Januar 2019



Diashow from the exhibition

  • Bargheer 1938 1G H1938-4 Watt 02

    Eduard Bargheer
    Watt. (Nordsee)
    Öl auf Leinwand 1938. Henze 1938/04.
    74 x 107 cm.
    Obj.Id 65559

  • Kirchner 1910 7L D195 Drei Akte im Wasser 01

    Ernst Ludwig Kirchner
    Drei Akte im Wasser.(Moritzburger Teiche)
    Lithographie 1910. Dube L 195.
    32,6 x 38,4 auf 37,7 x 45,5 cm.
    Obj.Id 80155


  • Kirchner 1928 1G G0916 Ruderer 01

    Ernst Ludwig Kirchner
    Ruderer. (Der Rhein in Basel)
    Öl auf Leinwand 1928/1929. Gordon 916.
    120 x 134 cm.
    Obj.Id 64959



  • Peiffer Watenphul 1938 2A P0291 Strand bei Terracina 01

    Max Peiffer Watenphul
    Strand bei Terracina. (Mittelmeer)
    Aquarell und Deckweiss 1938. Pasqualucci A 291.
    34,7 x 48,5 cm.
    Obj.Id 66090





  • Purrmann 1938 1G Billeter 1938-15 Brunnen der Villa Romana 01

    Hans Purrmann
    Brunnen in der Villa Romana. (Quelle)
    Öl auf Leinwand 1938. Billeter 1938/15.
    81 x 100 cm.
    Obj.Id 79219

  • Schmidt-Rottluff 1950 1G Weg in Ascona 05

    Karl Schmidt-Rottluff
    Weg in Ascona. (Lago Maggiore)
    Öl auf Leinwand 1950. Grohmann S. 274.
    76 x 112,3 cm.
    Obj.Id 76707


Water and the Visual Arts

Bargheer, Basso, Bott, Brodwolf, Eble, Grosz, Hartung, Heckel, Kirchner, Kubach-Wilmsen, Mueller, Nolde, Panayotidis, Pechstein, Peiffer Watenphul, Salomé, Schmidt-Rottluff, Schultze, Serra, Spoerri, Ursula, Werthmann, Winter, Zimmer

A summer theme, certainly, but a good, fruitful and significant one, a theme that – to give just one example – has also inspired Gottfried Knapp this summer to write a series of articles in the Süddeutsche Zeitung under the heading “(Painted) By the Waterside” in the Süddeutsche Zeitung, beginning in Part 1 (21st July) with an interesting analysis of Konrad Witz’s “The Miraculous Draught of Fishes”, a momentous work in the history of the depiction of water in art.

Permit me to make a personal remark before continuing: “Sounds of the Sea” was an exhibition theme conceived by our son-in-law Marc Triebold for our participation in Art Cologne in spring 2018, a theme that even the Neue Zürcher Zeitung described as “enrapturing”. Indeed, it is also an excellent theme for our exhibition here in Wichtrach, which has turned out to be a late summer exhibition, but then gives me the advantage that I can write this small text – thanks to fortunate circumstances – by the sea, and of course with the “sound of the sea” in my ears.

For this reason, and for a complete change, I wish to ask a different question of the paintings: Not what do they show or tell us, but what do they let us hear? Music and wind, certainly, but also the whole gamut of sounds from the sea, from the gushing waterfall to the gently babbling stream and the uncanny silence of a mirror-flat lake. The "hearing" of a painting is for me a newly discovered dimension, for me as I write this text with the sound of the sea in the background.

We “apostles” of the visual arts have forgotten that hearing came before seeing, that we can close our eyes, but not our ears. That for every image we see, whether real, represented or imaginary, a background noise immediately sets in, whether we like it or not. It is a background noise that varies according to the time of day, the seasons and the events that the eye can see. At night we can hear distant bells that during the day are completely drowned out by daytime noises. In winter we hear the snapping of a branch in the forest, while in summer it would not be audible above nature’s hustle and bustle. So there is always some kind of sound accompanying what we see.

While we are on the same theme, let us turn to a country where there has always been “suoni e luci” for art: Tomaso Montanari recently wrote in “La Repubblica” about a fantastically rampant phenomenon of “immersive experiences” in Italy: panoptical blow-ups of works of art projected onto all the walls of a large exhibition room or entire works of art not only with sound but also olfactory accompaniment. Naturally, every painting also evokes smells and we cannot close our noses either, but the forthcoming exhibition is about sound, the sound of an element that is so essential to life, the sound of water.

The sound of the sea is at its heftiest in stormy weather when the waves surge violently against each other, as in Erich Heckel’s “Boot in Regenbö” (“Boat in Squall”) of 1922 in the Flensburg Fiord. The sound of the sea can be much calmer and more varied on the shore, where it is rhythmicized by the surf-topped waves in an endless up and down, as in “Brandung” (“Surf”), likewise by Erich Heckel and dating from 1915 when he was doing his military service on the coast of Flanders. And we can hear this regular, rhythmical sound of the surf in the numerous coastal and beach depictions by Eduard Bargheer (North Sea), George Grosz (Bornholm, Cape Cod), Erich Heckel (Baltic Sea), Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (Fehmarn), Otto Mueller (dune landscape), Nakis Panayotidis (ship’s wake in the Mediterranean Sea), Max Pechstein (Baltic Sea), Max Peiffer Watenphul (Mediterranean Sea), Karl Schmidt-Rottluff (Baltic Sea) and Bernd Zimmer.

Harbours are a safe haven for ships. Here the sound of the sea is reduced to a gentle splashing against the walls of the quay and the hulls of the ships, which also scrape noisily against each other at times, while the wind whistles through the rigging. The exhibition shows harbour depictions by Dario Basso, Theo Eble (Sestri Levante, La Spezia, ships’ chains), Erich Heckel (Ostend, Amsterdam), Emil Nolde (Hamburg Harbour), Max Peiffer Watenphul (Venice) and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff (Nida).

Water flows down to the sea in rivers and streams. If there are no rapids and waterfalls, it flows along tranquilly, often with just a gentle rippling and gurgling. The exhibition shows river depictions by Erich Heckel (Elbe in Dresden, Alster Landscape), Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (Rhine near Basel), Otto Mueller (Forest Brook), Nakis Panayotidis (River Aare, Switzerland), but also water thundering down the mountain streams of Davos in Ernst Ludwig Kirchner's depictions of bathers in the mountain gorges.

The rivers flow in turn through ponds and lakes, where they calm down completely, often becoming, especially in the early hours of the morning, as smooth as a mirror, as in Erich Heckel's “Am See” (“By the Lake”) of 1950, which depicts Lake Constance, his ultimate place of refuge, and also in Ernst Ludwig Kirchner’s “Badende” (“Bathers”) on the shores of the Moritzburg Lakes near Dresden, in the pond scenes of Otto Mueller, in the Lago Maggiore views of Christian Rohlfs and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff. 

In times before the invention of the railway, heavy loads could be transported only on waterways, as water offered the least frictional resistance.  Another advantage was the ready supply of fish for sustenance.  Thus it made sense to settle close to the water, to work with it and on it. Examples of this phenomenon in the exhibition are Bargheer’s “Seemannsschüler” (“Sea Cadet”), Heckel's “Matrose” (“Sailor”), the lakeside hunters in Kirchner’s “Stilleben mit Ente und Schnepfen“ (“Still Life with Duck and Snipe”), Müller-Oerlinghausen's “Matrosenliebe” (“Sailor’s Love”), Pechstein's “Fischer” (“Fishermen”), Schmidt-Rottluff's women in “Bei den Netzen” (“At the Nets”) or his “Der Angler” (“The Angler”). But by far the most frequent human use of the lakeside landscapes shown in this exhibition is the pastime of bathing, which did not come into fashion until the end of the 19th century. Thus, long after the human being lost his protective body hair, he has returned to nature in all his nakedness, in all his new naturalness: the new man, depicted in all his beauty without the artificiality of the studio, especially in the works of Heckel and Kirchner.

But the exhibition is also not without some abstract approaches to the theme: Jürgen Brodwolf's “Boot” (“Boat”) certainly cannot float, and Anna and Wolfgang Kubach-Wilmsen's books of stone have captured the sound of the sea from millions of years ago. Water burbles and gurgles pleasantly not only in the real fountains of Daniel Spoerri and Friederich Werthmann but also in painted fountains like the one painted by Hans Purrmann in the Villa Romana in Florence. For their part, the abstract “Ondes” (“Waves”) by Francis Bott, the “Ewiges Strömen” (“Eternal Flow”) by Fritz Winter and the “Calesh Sea” by Ursula (U.Schultze-Bluhm) immediately conjure up the sound of the sea in the ears of our minds.

Wolfgang Henze

Text accompanying Exhibition No. 119 at Galerie Henze & Ketterer, Wichtrach/Bern

Galerie Henze & Ketterer
Kirchstrasse 26, CH 3114 Wichtrach
Tel. +41 (0)31 781 06 01
modernart (at) henze-ketterer.com
Galerie Henze & Ketterer & Triebold
Wettsteinstrasse 4, CH 4125 Riehen
Tel. +41 (0)61 641 77 77
ghkt (at) artgalleries.ch