Nudes in the Gottorf Sculpture Park
THE NORTHERNMOST OF THE LARGE MUSEUMS IN GERMANY IS THE STIFTUNG SCHLESWIGHOLSTEINISCHE LANDESMUSEEN SCHLOSS GOTTORF IN SCHLESWIG, THE LARGEST ART MUSEUM BETWEEN HAMBURG AND COPENHAGEN.
It’s housed in the former residence of the dukes of Gottorf on an island at the farthest point of the Schlei estuary which flows into the Baltic Sea. For centuries, the land stretching between the seas was ruled from here. Now, the castle, its stables and the 800 sqm riding hall is dedicated to culture: with archaeological collections such as the large Nydam ship and the famous bog bodies, the exhibition spans the art and cultural history of the north, ranging from the Middle Ages to modern and contemporary art. The grounds of the castle island and the adjacent baroque garden, which features the Gottorf Globe in a separate house, have become a sculpture park thanks to the installation of over 50 large sculptures mostly from the 20th and 21st centuries. They’re scattered around the extensive grounds in front of the castle façade and in front of the castle’s lake, allowing them to shine against a beautiful backdrop and ‘interact’ with one another.
The ‘Torso’ by Hans Martin Ruwoldt (1891–1969) was created in 1932, and depicts the female body in an extremely simplified form. Ruwoldt was trained during the Art Nouveau period and later became known for his animal sculptures. Karl August Ohrt (1902–1993) took the teachings of Cubism to heart, imbibing his portrayal of a couple from 1961, ‘Torso M, Torso W’, the great force of non-representational blocks while still succeeding in expressing feminine grace and male severity in the blocks’ volumes.
Gustav Seitz (1906–1969) created ‘Flensburg Venus’ in 1963, while his contemporary from Munich, sculptor Hans Wimmer (1907–1992) created ‘Desdemona’ in 1976. The older sculpture appears to be the more modern of the two, if you use abstraction as your yardstick. The figure truly experiences a dizzying crescendo. Starting from its small feet, the body ‘leaps’ up across the thighs to the enormous midsection of the body. The mighty jagged back is a striking reflection of this form. Only a small arm supports the figure, a primordial mother and a mermaid, because her skin condenses in places into scales.
‘Desdemona’, lying on the grass, represents Shakespeare’s tragic figure after her assassination. All her classical beauty blossoms in this death, and she needs a support under her armpit, generously provided by the sculptor. But here, too, we find an expressive overstretching (in the neck) that would have been rejected and frowned upon by academic sculptors. Visitors to Gottorf will find a faithful replica of Hans Wimmer’s studio containing his completed and unfinished works as well as theoriginal inventory.
Fritz Fleer (1921–1997) was Edwin Scharff’s student, but was also influenced by Gerhard Marcks, for whom he cast bronze figures at a young age. His ‘Great Athlete’ from 1985 recalls Greek-archaic figures from the 6th century BC but can also be explained by the typical condensation of forms found in the modern abstract. Fleer’s other male and female nude figures can also be found in Gottorf Park.
Along with Edgar Augustin (1936–1996), Klaus Kütemeier (1939–2013) was among the best of Gustav Seitz’s students. Kütemeier’s granite ‘Kneeling Female Figure’ was created between 1981 and 1983 and proves his skill as a true stone sculptor. He certainly paid attention to ancient Egyptian models, but here he created a modern type of woman reminiscent of architectural forms and transforms the Egyptian desire for eternity into a modern example. Some other major works by Kütemeier can also be seen in Gottorf Castle’s park.