An international exhibition that’s become an international incident
An exhibition of art in the Louvre has provoked fury in Germany for portraying the country as a dark and dangerous neighbour – has it ignored key movements deliberately, or is it all a matter of taste?
Above, a detail from Max Beckmann’s The Hell of Birds. Photograph courtesy of the Louvre
The Louvre’s spring exhibition, De l’Allemagne; German Thought and Painting 1800-1939 has generated so many ruffled feathers and bruised feelings that it is worth saying at the outset what is good about it.
A German newspaper lamented that the contemporary German artist Anselm Kiefer’s monumental engraving on wood and collage on canvas “sets the tone for the rest of the exhibition” by reminding visitors of “Germany’s bloody past”. Yet Kiefer’s work is a powerful evocation of the tragic pairing of countries that fought one another four times in two centuries, taking many tens of millions of people to their graves.
Kiefer’s room, through which one must pass to enter and exit the exhibition, is black, white and grey. The Rhine, the border between France and Germany, surrounds one, along with the Atlantic Wall and the Maginot Line, vestiges of two World Wars. Black tree trunks rise from the banks of the Rhine, like the bars of a prison that traps, submerges and encloses the visitor in an inescapable past. A geometric prism floats across the scene, annotated with the word “Melancholia”.
Kiefer was born in 1945 and has spent his life asking how the horror happened. He adds Satan to the Holy Trinity, thus transforming it into a quartet. Among the names of great German thinkers painted on the walls, Kiefer includes Paul Celan, the Romanian-born, German-speaking Jewish poet whose parents perished in the Holocaust, and who drowned himself in the Seine in 1970. “There are still songs to sing, above and beyond the history of men,” are the hopeful words of Kiefer’s homage to Celan.
The mood then shifts to the past, with Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein’s iconic portrait of Goethe in the Roman Countryside (1787). The German Centre for the History of Art in Paris, one of the chief protagonists in the controversy over the exhibition, had wanted the great German poet, writer and thinker to be its focus. Goethe’s watercolour studies of the spectrum of light and his paintings of plants are a delightful surprise, shown alongside strikingly similar works by Paul Klee, done more than a century later.
Max Beckmann’s The Hell of Birds , painted in 1938, after the painter fled Nazi Germany for Amsterdam, closes the exhibition. A row of garish figures on the left raise their hands in Nazi salutes. A dark German eagle presides over the centre of the canvas, beneath the Nazi salute of a bird-like priestess with four breasts. A naked man lies prostrate on a table, his hands and feet bound, while a creature scores his back with a knife. Le Monde called Beckmann’s painting “perhaps the only canvas of the century that could be hung next to Guernica and hold its own”.
It is easy to see why the exhibition’s German critics interpreted The Hell of Birds as an allegory for Nazi dictatorship; it is more difficult to understand why the Louvre’s curators excused it as “a militant pacifist work, a work of resistance”.
The exhibition of more than 200 works was meant to commemorate 50 years of Franco-German friendship since the Treaty of the Élysée. It will continue, under the patronage of President Francois Hollande and Chancellor Angela Merkel, until June 24th.
The world’s most-visited museum strived for political correctness, all but ignoring the official, Nazi-approved art of the 1930s and dubiously portraying universalist humanism as the German artistic response to the horrors of the first World War. Among August Sander’s striking 1930s photographs at the end of the show are two portraits, one a man, one a woman, entitled “persecuted”. Were they Jewish? The Louvre doesn’t tell us.
A sinister vision
The Louvre was “surprised and profoundly hurt . . . shocked by the openly Francophobe statements” in Die Zeit ’s critique of the exhibition, wrote Henri Loyrette, the director of the Louvre,
in a four-page letter to the Hamburg daily. Accusations that the museum intended to convey a “sinister” vision of Germany were “totally unfounded”, Loyrette continued. “We had no other ambition than to enable the French public to discover the richness, diversity and inventiveness of German painting from 1800 to 1939,” he protested.
Yet the official notes, published by the museum, seem to confirm its German critics’ chief grievance. The notion that nationalism was the driving force in German art permeates the exhibition. “While the Napoleonic occupation helped advance the cause of unity in this vein, providing the political underpinnings for the earliest stirring of the Romantic movement, the rise of Nazism, at the end of the period’s chronological span, revealed the tragic dimension of this concept,” the curators write.
The wings of the angel in Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld’s Annunciation (1820) are gold, red and black, the colours of Germanic peoples since the Middle Ages. The museum calls Franz Pforr’s Rudolph von Habsburg Enters Bâle (1808-1810) “a nationalist manifesto”. Painted under Napoleonic occupation, Pforr’s masterpiece shows the foundation of the Habsburg dynasty in 1273, but in 16th-century costume. Nostalgia for the 962-1806 Holy Roman Empire, when German-speaking peoples lived under unified rule, is a recurring theme in early 19th-century art.
A detail from Franz Pforr’s Rudolph
The show includes six paintings of the Catholic cathedral of Cologne. After a lapse of centuries, Protestant Prussians completed the cathedral in 1880. It was then the tallest building in the world, and a symbol of a powerful and united Germany.
Natascha Marest, a German guide employed by several French museums, finds the Louvre’s exhibition “superb”. Yet she understands why a German who regards it superficially might be offended. “In my youth, in the 1970s and 1980s, all we watched were films about the Holocaust,” she explains. “We never read Goethe. The myths of the Nibelungen were not taught. We were ashamed of our cultural heritage. When a German sees the Cologne cathedral and [Leo von Klenze’s 1836 painting of] Valhalla in an exhibition, it may shock him; he may say, ‘This is a nationalist interpretation of German art’.”
The exhibition includes 20 paintings by Caspar David Friedrich, the master of the 19th-century Romantic landscape. Friedrich’s Woman in the Morning Sun (1818) shows an elegantly clad woman facing the sunrise and is the signature painting of the exhibition. The spiritual, mystical Friedrich rejected Goethe’s exhortations to paint according to scientific theories. “Close your physical eye to see first with the eye of your mind,” Friedrich said.
Yet even Friedrich’s syrupy landscapes are accused of nationalism. In Tree With Crows (1822), gnarled branches, freighted with birds of ill portent, are framed against a pastel sky. The tree grows from an ancient Druid tumulus, evoking the nation’s origins and its capacity to survive.
During the wars against Napoleonic France, the Louvre notes, “the land takes on patriotic connotations; the feeling of nature an ideological dimension”. Friedrich exalted the landscape – considered an inferior art form by the French – and made it quintessentially German.
A detail from Caspar David Friedrich’s Friedrich’s Woman in the Morning Sun. Photograph courtesy of the Louvre
The Louvre’s logic
The title of the exhibition is taken from Germaine de Staël’s De l’Allemagne (1813), which shaped French attitudes throughout the 19th century. One has only to read her chapter on fine art to understand the Louvre’s approach: “Germans in general conceive of art better than they put it into practice,” she began. Germany’s best painters – Dürer , Cranach and Holbein – lived before the Reformation, de Staël wrote. Germany produced fine writers and musicians, she added, but not artists. The stereotype persists today.
Much of what is best in German art – the Brücke, Blaue Reiter and Bauhaus movements, for example – was left out of the exhibition on the grounds that these were international movements. Instead, many of the paintings on show are second-rate, a confirmation of the French view that Germans can’t paint. And many are Austrian or Swiss, not German. Anselm Feuerbach’s Lucretia Borgia (1864) is mannish and ugly. Arnold Böcklin’s Frolicking Mermaids (1886) is kitsch.
Whatever the intention of the Louvre’s curators, and despite the controversy they’ve ignited – or perhaps because of it – the exhibition is a success, drawing 3,400 visitors daily; 81 per cent more than the museum expected. “Our bet was that the French, like Madame de Staël in her time, harbour curiosity and fascination for Germany,” says Henri Loyrette. For Germany, he concludes, is France’s neighbour, “so close and yet so far away”.
The German view: criticism belies exhibition’s success
Critical reaction to the Louvre exhibition in Germany has ranged from polite applause to furious scorn. The Frankfurter Allgemeine and Die Zeit attacked the show for, in their eyes, following the controversial Sonderweg (“special path”) narrative of German history – namely, that German history took a path separate to its neighbours that triggered an inevitable slide towards Hitler.
This impression, they suggested, is underlined by the exclusion of respected German art movements dubbed “degenerate” by the Nazis – such as the Secession, Bauhaus or Brücke. Both newspapers relate complaints from the German Centre for the History of Art in Paris. Although ostensibly a co-curator, it claims to have been excluded from the show’s curation process.
“These restrictions are unusual in international academic circles, to put it mildly,” says Andreas Beyer, the centre’s director, in Die Zeit. When finally allowed into the Louvre the Germans told the FAZ they were “amazed and appalled” by a “visual history of an abysmal land . . . headed more or less straight for National Socialism”.
“The accusation is that the Louvre took the material delivered by the German Centre and formed their own history of Germany that confirms all cliches of the romantic-strange, dangerous and dark neighbour,” writes FAZ critic Niklas Maak.
He adds: “Whoever doesn’t read the catalogue essays and only follows the show’s signs gets the impression that the Germans, after a short period of fascination with the antique era, retreated to their forests and . . . went crazy around 1900 before emerging during National Socialism.”
Die Zeit agrees, suggesting visitors should concentrate on the art and ignore the Louvre’s attempt to impose an Apollonian- Dionysian dichotomy of order and chaos on German art. “To call the exhibition’s concept an over-simplification would be a euphemism,” it notes drily. Germany’s best-selling quality daily, the Süddeutsche Zeitung, disagreed, praising the show for “not drawing a direct line from romanticism to National Socialism”.
It points out that footage of Leni Riefenstahl’s Olympia is juxtaposed with Billy Wilder’s little-seen film Menschen am Sonntag, showing that 1930s German life was not one endless show of Aryan muscle. On Deutschlandradio Kultur, Prof Bénédicte Savoy, a French-born art historian based in Berlin, suggested the allergic reaction in some quarters suggested that “Germans don’t like being liked. In Paris, the exhibition is a huge success,” she said.
“Everyone’s saying that their eyes have been opened and have got to know the more gentle Germans.”
The discount retailer alleged that Tesco had failed to compare like with like, had not stated the correct sale price of relevant Aldi products and had failed to compare the relevant quantities.
Aldi wittingly had used the example of a bag of mint humbugs to support their case. It rather looks like The Tesco humbug has been exposed yet once again.
It relation to Tesco just remember every little bit helps to hurt somebody else
Hundreds turned out to protest Angela Merkel’s arrival in Lisbon on Monday, following the German austerity measures imposed to save Portugal’s failing economy. Merkel met with President Aníbal Cavaco Silva and Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho to discuss Portugal’s progress.
Statues around the city were draped in black as a sign of mourning for a nation struggling to survive under its broken economy. Pictures of Angela Merkel adorned with the Nazi swastika, as well as portraits of the Chancellor in the role of puppet master, could be seen throughout the streets of Lisbon.
Posters, puppets and banners of protest throughout Portugal read, in the Portuguese language, ‘Morte Merkel’ meaning ‘Die Merkel’ and in the German language, ‘Merkel Raus’ meaning ‘Merkel, out!’ One banner even read, ‘Adolf Merkel,’ likening the German Chancellor to the infamous leader of the Nazi Party.
Many Portuguese people, tired of the austerity measures, are extremely dissatisfied at being under the control of Germany. They are experiencing cutbacks put in place to make Portugal eligible for bailout funds of 78 billion euros.
German austerity measures have caused increased levels of poverty, tax boosts on income, automobiles and electricity and a rise in unemployment to over 16%. The elderly and those on minimum wage have also experienced large cuts, the effects of which are due to worsen in the coming year. 2013 will mark Portugal’s third year of recession, where further tax hikes and public spending cuts are expected.
Mrs Merkel pledged to stick by Portugal throughout these ‘very hard’ times, and with brought businessmen with her to invest in the country. Merkel congratulated Portugal on its determined approach to the austerity measures and for the work of Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho who, unlike the leaders of Greece, has upheld strict cutback deadlines required for continued financial help. Germany has now begun quarterly reviews of Portugal to ensure they are meeting the deadlines required for continued bailout.
Although Portugal are now being kept on an extremely short leash, Coelho said there was ‘no option’ but to follow Germany’s guidelines for economic recovery as he, like many government leaders, blame the over spending of previous governments for Portugal’s current turmoil.
“Today, we would be living through far, far greater difficulties if our European partners, including Germany, had not helped with the loans we have received.’
The Portuguese public do not demonstrate this same resolve and blame Portugal’s current government as well as the influence of Germany for their economic decline.
Spot the Dictator
If we asked you to name the most significant thing about this picture, you’d probably say “The fact that everyone’s wearing the same hat.” However, there are two historically important things about it: First, this was taken on August 2, 1914, at Munich’s Odeonsplatz, and it shows the cheerful reaction of a German crowd in the plaza during the announcement of World War I, because there’s no way something like that could go wrong for them. Remember, at this point words like “Nazi” and “Holocaust” meant nothing to the German people.
The second thing is that within this crowd, there’s a subtle hint of the terror that awaits the country — take a closer look at the man in the circle and see if you recognize him …
“World war? Now there’s an idea.”
Yep, that’s a 26-year-old Adolf Hitler looking stoked that his country is going to war, or possibly asking people if they like his new mustache. He’s two decades away from hijacking the nation into Nazism and leading them into an even more devastating global conflict.
You can’t see his legs, but judging from that haircut, he must have been wearing cigarette jeans.
The photo was taken by Heinrich Hoffmann, who would go on to become Hitler’s personal photographer. In 1932, Hitler visited Hoffmann’s photo lab and mentioned that he was in the 1914 Odeonsplatz crowd. Hoffmann looked in his negatives and, sure enough, found a face that could only belong to the future Fuhrer.
Hoffmann Collection, U.S. National Archives
“Or Charlie Chaplin. But most likely the Fuhrer.”
Recently, German historians have put the authenticity of the photo in doubt, claiming that Hoffmann could have faked it to shut up critics who questioned his boss’ patriotism. While we wouldn’t put something like that past Hitler, those guys will excuse us if we don’t trust the historians in a country where half the children still don’t know what Nazism was.
I find circumcision to be one of the more disgusting and reprehensible examples of religion corrupting our natural sense of morality, which is based on compassion and reciprocity and not on this type of behaviour.
The foreskin, at risk of making a banal, non-controversial assertion, is a natural, healthy and useful part of the human body.
It protects infants from contamination when they have nappy rash. At any age, it protects nerve endings and keeps the penis warm and clean and soft. In adults, it helps sexually in terms of both sensitivity and natural lubrication.
If it poses any health problems, cutting it off is a disproportionate response to those problems.
Most of the supposed health problems associated with the foreskin can be resolved by cleaning your penis properly, and by using condoms during sex.
The HIV studies show mixed results, and insofar as they do show a possible protection, it is that a circumcised man may be less likely to contract HIV from a woman, but not to give HIV to a woman, but only if they are also consistently carrying out safe sex.
And cutting off your foreskin, to reduce your chances of getting HIV, is like pulling out half of your teeth, in order to reduce your chances of getting tooth cavities.
Just brush your teeth, clean your penis, wear a condom, and you don’t have to cut off parts of your body to stay healthy.
But the important point about religious circumcision is that it is not motivated in any case by health concerns.
It is motivated by worshipping a God who seems obsessed with the genitalia of human beings on planet Earth.
This God of the Judaic Bible tells Abraham and Moses to circumcise their children or he will kill them.
The first split in what eventually evolved into Christianity comes when Paul is trying to spread the good news to the Gentiles.
And he is selling them the message, and they are going “yeah, that sounds really good, yeah, eternal life, yeah, that sounds really great, how do we join?” and he says “well, you have to cut off your foreskin…”, and suddenly he has a bit of a marketing problem.
So he has to try to persuade the rest of the Jesus Disciples to allow Gentiles to follow the religion without mutilating themselves, which understandably they are reluctant to do, because they are adults.
And that is one of the reasons that religions insist on circumcising children when they are below the age when they can consent to it, because they know that the purpose of circumcision is to desensitize and control human sexuality.
And they know that if you leave the decision until the time when people are adults, that very few people will take up the option.
If they want to, that’s fine. I’ve no problem with adults choosing to mutilate themselves in any way they want.
But don’t inflict it on defenseless children.
Human rights in the context of freedom of religion and belief an conscience used to be about protecting religious communities, when there was a concern that religious communities might die out.
And then they gradually evolved into protecting the rights of parents, as heads of families, to have their particular religious views and practices protected.
But it is now moving towards recognizing that children have their own rights, irresepective of what their parents believe.
And though it is unfortunate that the German Government has fallen in to religious pressure after the German courts recognized correctly the rights of the child, I think in the long run, or even in the medium term, we are moving in the right direction.
And the rights of the child will be protected by courts, and then cravenly and cowardly followed by politicians, who will protect them on the basis of “Oh well, the courts have made us do it.”
And that’s really a debate for another day, but it is a much more serious invasion of human rights than is male circumcision, and a much more serious mutilation of the sexuality of an individual, than is male circumcision.
But it does show the mindset of the type of people who, under any circumstances, are prepared to justify the mutilation of the genitals of a defenseless child.
So, I’ll leave it at that.
You’ve no doubt heard the phrase, “cutting off your nose to spite your face.”
Well, circumcision is cutting off your foreskin to spite your penis, and to spite your natural sexuality.
If you want to do that for yourself, to yourself, go ahead.
But don’t inflict it on defenseless children.
Did you ever wonder where this money goes?
Most of the money goes to German banks, in particular, the German Bundesbank, who recklessly lent to Irish Banks with Anglo Irish leading the pack of borrowers. Among the foremost stockholders of the Bundesbank are The Rothschild’s and the Warburg’s two of the richest and most powerful families in the world.
So now, you know some of the beneficiaries of austerity measures in Ireland .
Both families have been prominent in the Bilderberg group. This group meet annually and is invitation only. Most of the guests are people of influence (Money).
Journalist Caroline Moorehead in a 1977 article critical of the Bilderberg group’s membership, quoted an unnamed member of the group: “No invitations go out to representatives of the developing countries. ‘Otherwise you simply turn us into a mini-United-Nation,’ said one person. And, ‘we are looking for like-thinking people and compatible people.
Members of the Bilderberg control of most of the world’s resources and financial institutions.
Opinion polls show a majority of two to one believe Ireland is trying hard to fix the economy. Surprisingly, a greater percentage of Irish people than Germans believe that we should be trying harder to fix our economic mess.
Yet on the other hand, most German people know bugger all about Ireland.
Why is this? Quite, simply because we are a small tiny country that suffers from the illusion that everyone knows us. Those that are familiar with Ireland recognise us for the craic and drinking. Therefore, lads no need for a screaming fit each and ever time some one mislabels us as British.
Please do not shout I’m Irish, God dammit, otherwise people identify you as being touchy and unhinged. However, this is OK if you need to be alone.
Irish, Ah British if only I had a pint for every time I heard that I be a happy man.
Irish what are they, pet animals? Can I have one are they cuddly?
What, There are Irish people here, right beside us, mother of Jesus, in our town, how terrible? You mean the Christ on a wafer brigade, bog-trotting culchies, stealing our jobs raping our woman. Oh well I guess it’s better to be Irish than Welsh. You’re from where…I hear they eat their young.
You know I just love walking down Kurfürstendamm with my midget girl friend and she decked out in bottle green hot pants adorned with shamrocks and a pig under her arm. You should see the looks we get. I told her if anyone calls you, British just smack him one.
EU powers are pushing to dispose of a series of key questions in the debt crisis by the end of the year in an effort to minimise the risk that the issues will become embroiled in the German election campaign.
They are now pressing Spain to decide quickly on bailout aid and have resolved to rush through complex legislation on a pan-European banking supervisor.
EU POWERS are pushing to dispose of a series of key questions in the debt crisis by the end of the year in an effort to minimise the risk that the issues will become embroiled in the German election campaign.
The authorities have been buoyed by the European Central Bank’s new bond-buying initiative and the go-ahead for the ESM fund from the highest German court.
They are now pressing Spain to decide quickly on bailout aid and have resolved to rush through complex legislation on a pan-European banking supervisor.
To morrow in Misebogland The Implications of the German Court ruling on the ESM
The court stated German liability to the ESM must not exceed €190bn without parliament’s approval.Now the question is where does the rest of the money come from. If need be does it again end up before the German courts