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The Art Within the Art: Kunstmuseum Stuttgart

The Art Within The Art: Kunstmuseum Stuttgart

You have to admit, the building is impressive. It reinforces the idea that you’re about to witness man-made achievements before you even buy your ticket. I wonder if the architects were playing against the idea that you should think outside the box when they decided to literally build a modern, cold-looking, glass box, and then enclose the art in warm, Jurassic-age limestone. The new museum building was opened in 2005, and designed by architects Hascher and Jehle, the triumphant winners of a competition amongst 341 architect offices. They sought and accomplished building a museum that offered varied exhibition spaces, and felt open to the city outside. For the museum visitor, the act of changing floors is both becoming a part of the public art of the museum architecture itself, as revealed by the glass windows to passersby outside, and a visual delight with its panorama views of the city-center.

Swabian Impressionism
Thanks to Count Silvio della Valle di Casanova's donation of his private collection of Swabian Impressionist works in 1924, the Kunstmuseum Stuttgart had a hearty foundation to start. Impressionism is my favorite art period, and the ‘Swabian’ element grabbed my curiosity. What made this Impressionist collection ‘Swabian’? Swabia refers to a region of fluctuating borders within Germany, one that usually included the city of Stuttgart. In today’s geography Swabia has been swallowed up by the states of Bavaria and Baden-Württenberg.

Swabian Impressionist referred to where the artists were from, more than a different variation of Impressionism. Although some may point out that their paintings consisted of more earthy tones than their French counterparts, this was in reflection of the Swabian landscapes they were depicting. The names to know are Hermann Pleuer, Otto Reiniger, and Christian Landenberger. Hermann Pleuer, whose landscapes often included some form of rail or trains in the scene are easy to identify. Impress your friends when you name the artist without looking at the calling card.

Otto Dix
We’ve discussed Expressionism before as it related to the architecture of a special street in Bremen, Germany called Böttcherstrasse. You can check out those earlier posts here, Böttcherstrasse: An Introduction (Part 1), Paula Modersohn-Becker Museum (Part 2) Mostly Expressionist, Sort of North German Gothic (Part 3). Expressionism also has a painting counterpart, a style that Otto Dix is very well known for. He distorted the figures in his painting for an emotional effect, to express a feeling. Expressionist; expressing feeling.

Dix had plenty to express! He was the perfect age to suffer through the entire duration of World War I, which thematically weaved through his subject matter for his entire art career. As a professor his artwork met the ire of Hitler, and was exhibited at the Degenerate Art Exhibit in Berlin. Hitler wasn’t fond of his Anti-War sentiments, nor his distorted painted figures. In the final years of WWII, he was drafted with the older men and young boys. He ended up a prisoner of war in France. Otto Dix died in 1969.

If you only have time for one painting, see his massive triptych Metropolis. Be forewarned it is not the most lovely thing you’ll see in Stuttgart. That's beside the point. The artist risked his life for a country, which upon losing the war and paying reparations, was degraded to prostitution in exchange for basic needs and widespread neglect of its veterans. His disillusionment spilled over into this piece, Metropolis. On the far left is the lowest of the low, and the far right is only slightly better. The middle is the bourgeois who are physically separated from their miserable counterparts on either side.

Metropolis by Otto Dix, part of the permanent collection of Kunstmuseum Stuttgart | Germany • Gallery Photo Attributed to Peter Bilz-Wohlgemuth

Always New
As a municipal museum focused on modern art, Kunstmuseum Stuttgart always has new exhibitions being shown.Check their English website for the latest and greatest.

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Thank you For Reading! Denise & Sebastian | Photo by Irene Fiedler