Romanticism reconsidered


In his book “Natur im Bewusstsein der Differenz” Philipp Meurer provides a new approach to the reception of Swiss painter and graphic artist Franz Gertsch.

Franz Gertsch
Saintes Maries de la Mer I, 1971
Dispersion auf ungrundiertem Halbleinen, 300 x 400 cm
Dauerleihgabe Stifterkreis Kunsthalle zu Kiel
© Franz Gertsch, Foto: Kunsthalle zu Kiel, Martin Frommhagen.

To date, the works of Swiss painter and graphic artist Franz Gertsch (born 1930) have been mostly considered as sensitive renderings of nature. Accordingly, the artist was often broadly classified as a “romantic realist”. In his new book, entitled “Natur im Bewusstsein der Differenz”, art historian Philipp Meurer provides evidence that this approach is misleading.

Philipp, who is undertaking his PhD at the Graduate School, has analysed works such as Gertsch’s “Les Saintes Maries de la Mer I” and Caspar David Friedrich’s “The Monk by the Sea”. “Both artists’ relationship with nature is not dominated by empathy, as common opinion about romanticism suggests, but by reflection”, Philipp explains. Superficially, the works might be perceived as emulations of nature. However, the way they were made contests their relation to reality and opens up further dimensions of contemplation. This multidimensionality leads to a question that not only affects art, but also modern-day visual media: In which direction does the seemingly objective picturing of things direct us? “Les Saintes Maries de la Mer I” might be a good starting point for finding one’s personal answer: It is on display in the Kieler Kunsthalle, just a few kilometers from the Graduate School.

Jirka Niklas Menke