Sunday, March 29, 2009

Nierendorf Gallery, Berlin

Last week in Berlin, one of the highlights of my mother in-law’s visit was an afternoon at the art gallery owned by an old family friend, Florian Karsch. He was very close to my husband’s grandmother, in Germany during and immediately after the Second World War, when my mother in-law was just a girl. The gallery is called Nierendorf (the name of Florian’s step-father). At 83, Florian is still actively involved in running the gallery, and even in making art himself.

Nierendorf has a very large collection of interwar German art. The current exhibition is of works by Otto Dix. Anyone familiar with Dix’s powerful work knows that they are expressionistic, and sometimes of violent subject matter like war and death. Florian very generously gave me a copy of the 50-page catalogue of the Dix exhibition. It is a lavishly produced, color glossy booklet. He gave me a similar one of quite different works by his wife, Inge Karsch, which are mostly floral still-lifes and landscapes; the catalogue is equally beautiful.

For me this visit was a highlight of my time in Berlin (8 weeks now) in part because of the chance to discover artists whose work I hadn’t known before (especially Josef Scharl; see my blog entry), and in part because Florian was such a kind, sweet man. He was drafted as a soldier at age 16 – the Germans were quite desperate at a certain point, and were conscripting everyone, young and old. He lost his leg at age 19, and was recovering (not very speedily) in the town of Bad Pyrmont in Lower Saxony (near Hanover), where he met my mother in-law’s family. Her mother was an artist, and offered free art instruction to recovering soldiers; Florian was one of these. Although he insists he is not an artist, he makes sketches of all the visitors to his gallery, including me and my mother in-law. My portrait is shown below.

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