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Painting of a Forgotten Man

Plane Crash in Cornfield

Plane Crash in CornfieldIn Luebeck there is a small Museum called Museum Behnhaus Draegerhaus located in a merchant house of the 19th century. An exhibition about Lionel Feininger and his connection to Luebeck and Lueneburg made me curious. Feininger travelled to Hanseatic towns to study brickgothic in the early 1920ies. Among the various drawings and miniature houses there are two paintings of his cubist period about a street in Halle and Luebeck and one painting from 1952.  The latter is called Shadow of Dissolution, a melancholic reference to Luebeck, which was then in ruins. Everything on this image is blurred in stark contrast to the clear lines and forms of his cubist paintings. What was left of Luebeck is fading memory.
Even though I adore Feiniger, the cubist, the painter of the various Gelmeroda images, even though there were Beckmann, Munich, Kokoschka and Kirchner in the permanent exhibition of this small museum there was a special painting from 1930 which caught my eye. It shows a plane crashed in a golden cornfield. What is surprising is the darkish grey sky, the dark pale ball like an eye of what could be a moon – or a sun? The bright white plane is at the side – as if the crash is a side show. The image looks freaky in its surreal realism. In the centre there are neat old North German farm houses. No human beings are visible, a flying bird though, and still invisible human beings seem to be present as the ones having set the seeds for the field, as the creators of the houses and the plane and the pilot who crashed it. It feels like an image of premonition. The prenominition of fashism? World War? Or the clash between the traditional live and the dangerous modern world.

I photographed this painting. The painter’s name is Franz Radziwill. Have you ever heard about Franz Radziwill? Unlike with the other paintings, the museum does not provide any explanation. Is he just a local painter with a one off sold painting, I wondered? I googled his name and found quite a bit. Franz Radziwill used to have a name. He had an exhibition with two painters, still well known today, Erich Heckel and Schmidt-Rotluff in 1922. Like them he made expressionist paintings. He knew and was supported by another famous expressionist Otto Dix. And then it gets strange. According to wikipedia, he got interested in the ‘movement’, the brown movement, the Nazis. He even joined the party. However, they, the Nazis, showed some of his paintings as Entartete Kunst in the infamous exhibition. They called him ‘Kulturbolschewist’ and he agreed that those exhibited paintings were worthless. Despite this ‘Selbstkritik’ (self criticism – obviously this communist tool was not understood by all Nazis) his exhibitions were sometimes forbidden during the Nazi period. The Gestapo also monitored his activities. But he continued to support the brown cause and finally made even a little career in the NSDAP. And even though according to this there is no doubt he was a Nazi, in the Denazification procedure after the war he was discharged. In West Germany, he got prices . He also travelled to East Germany, but in the artist world he was not accepted. His friend Otto Dix failed getting him into the (West)Berliner Akademie der Kuenste (Berlin Academy of Arts). A higher number of his 800 pieces-oeuvre can be seen in the Landesmuseum Oldenburg.
I remember the beautiful portrait of Elsbeth Goetz painted by Max Beckmann, which is placed on the other side of the room in the Draegerhaus. Max BeckmannMax Beckmann painted her in when she was just 23 years old in 1924. She died in Theresienstadt. I look at the photo of Radziwill’s painting again. Maybe he was the pilot of the crashed plane.














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