Glimpses #9: Germany, Italy, Switzerland

September 15, 2017

Originally intended as a small book, “Glimpses: In which a Casual Traveler Ruminates on Passing Scenes—1989-2011″, I should like to share it with my readers in a more informal manner as a series of Blogs. The introduction and first two “Glimpses” are in the Blog uploaded on October 2, 2016

Germany: Cologne: While visiting a distinguished photographer at his sumptuous apartment, the walls covered with photographs of famous people and places covering who knows how many decades, we approach the elderly gentleman seated in his wheelchair as our introductory remarks are translated by a serious-faced woman, too young to be his wife, perhaps his attendant. The meeting had been arranged by the director of Amerika Haus, a cultural arm of the U.S. Government at which I had recently lectured on a book I had written about the Cologne-based etcher/painter Heinrich J. Jarczyk. The very formal introductions completed, Cornelia casually asked if we could take a photo. Astonished glances of consternation were quickly and silently exchanged between the famous photographer and his attendant. A photo? Within moments we had quickly realized the misunderstanding. Our request was interpreted as our taking one of his photographs from his walls and the agitation perhaps on deciding which one to give up to these upstart American visitors! When Cornelia held up her camera, however, smiles and sighs of relief suddenly lightened the room and the situation — ah, the joys of bumbling along in a foreign country.

Italy: Siena: Treated to the lauded Italian sense of style in the tiny, front show-window of a shoe store: a single shoe atop a piece of drapery folded just so. (There is a European saying: “The French, with their logic, should think of it; the Italians, with their style, should design it; the Germans, with their sense of order, should build It.”). Siena is a beautiful little city, full of beautiful women (I never saw so many in one place!), many with high heels and all their elegant finery zipping along on tiny Vespas.

Switzerland: Berne: Friday evening and we seek out a synagogue to see if we can attend services. Two exotic/ commonplace surprises: Cornelia had to sit in a separate location high up in a balcony at the rear, and the strange sense of familiarity as the German-speaking rabbi switched to the same ancient Hebrew prayers we hear at home.

Italy: Venice: On the way back to the train station, crossing over the Rialto Bridge with Gabi and Norbert — the setting sun off to our left just as we reached its crest. Lovely! (Note: Gaby and Norbert Witmer, friends who live in Deichelweg outside of Munich and whom we met through the Jarczyks; we took many trips with them through southern Germany and northern Italy).

 

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Glimpses #2: Belgium, Germany

October 14, 2016

Originally intended as a small book, “Glimpses: In which a Casual Traveler Ruminates on Passing Scenes—1989-2011″, I should like to share it with my readers in a more informal manner as a series of Blogs.. The introduction and first two “Glimpses” are in the Blog uploaded on October 2, 2016

rjs_at_dais

Belgium: Leuven: Walking off nervousness before I have to deliver a paper at an international conference hosted by KADOC at the Catholic University, I pass through the remnants of a gate in a stone wall on the town’s outskirts. How many walled towns does Europe contain? Was this one raised by the Franks who founded Leuven? Or, as so many seem to be, by the Romans? Why do we still feel we need walls? We’ve only replaced stone with ideologies.

The Dom in Cologne seen from the train

The Dom in Cologne seen from the train

Germany: Paris, to Cologne, Germany: We arrive at the train station at night after leaving Isabelle and Bertrand. Our first view of Cologne: The Dom lit up in bluish lights: an unforgettable, fantastic wedding cake fashioned over the years out of durable stone! And to think that during WWII we nearly bombed it into rubble! (Note: Isabelle and Bertrand Azema, a couple from France that we met in NYS while Bertrand worked at IBM and whom we visited in France).

This is a detail of the Dionysus Mosaic found at the Roman-German Museum in Cologne Germany

This is a detail of the Dionysus Mosaic found at the Roman-German Museum in Cologne Germany

This is a detail of the Dionysus Mosaic found at the Roman-German Museum in Cologne Germany

This is a detail of the Dionysus Mosaic found at the Roman-German Museum in Cologne Germany

Germany: Cologne: I discovered that this city’s name comes from the word ‘colony’ and was the northernmost settlement of the Romans on the Rhine River. A curious note: during WWII when the U.S. bombed this city, most all of it (97%) was razed, though they tried not to destroy its beautiful Dom. After cleaning up after the war, the Germans discovered that the bombs had unearthed long-buried remnants of the Roman presence: an almost wholly preserved mosaic floor, glass artifacts, chariot wheels and parts, etc. All now preserved in a Roman Museum nearby the Dom. What lies beneath Rome? And then?


Glimpses #1: Germany, Italy

October 2, 2016

Originally intended as a small book, “Glimpses: In which a Casual Traveler Ruminates on Passing Scenes—1989-2011”, I should like to share it with my readers in a more informal manner as a series of Blogs.

Ranging across some distance around the globe including Europe, Asia —and closer to “home”—Canada and Barbados, in addition to these ‘hosting’ countries, I’d like to acknowledge the following friends and hosts (as well as countless clerks, guides, porters, fellow travelers—in brief, all those unnamed but not forgotten people in Japan, the Czech Republic, Belgium and Austria whose helpful presence often eased the hassles of travel): Heinrich J., Konstanze and Christian Jarczyk, Jacky Sparkowsky and Jorg Iwan, Gaby and Norman Wittmer (Germany); Piero Augustus Breccia (Italy); Chen Chi and Zu Min, Jason and Crystal ((college students)), Xue Jianhua and Shao Li Ke (China); Ann Mamok, Rick and Jo Canning (England); Isabel and Bertrand Azema (France); Laslo Fesus (Hungary); Barbara and Ronnie Gill (Barbados).

A note to the reader: I have not included dates in separate entries since most of these recollections have been gleaned months — if not years — after their occurrence, not a few popping into my mind during sleepless nights long after I had returned home from my travels.

Included will be some of my paintings & sketches as well as some photographs taken by Cornelia Seckel.

Gardens as seen from the trains in Germany

Gardens as seen from the trains in Germany

Germany: On a train from Cologne to Berlin: small, enclosed garden plots, many with tiny buildings (for the storage of tools?), most with a sitting area containing a bench, followed by open fields and larger farms. Such plots also flashed by my window in China and Japan, each time before and after the environs of large towns or cities. Do city/town dwellers come out here to these tiny, well-tended gardens on evenings and weekends? Does man ever fully divorce himself from the land? Stop putting his hands into the soil? What happens when he does?

Italy: Rome: Waiting at a bus-stop. Having just missed a bus on our way to Piero’s studio (where we were staying), we put down our packages to await the next. How long? We notice a church across the street. Why not? We enter and are astounded to discover that it contains Bernini’s “Ecstasy of St.Theresa”. No signs to give a clue! How many other hidden treasures have I blithely passed by on my way elsewhere? (Note: Pier ((Piero)) Augusto Breccia is an artist I met in NYC and whom I wrote about in ART TIMES).


Glimpses #3: China, Germany, Hungary

January 8, 2016

Originally intended as a small book, “Glimpses: In which a Casual Traveler Ruminates on Passing Scenes—1989-2011″, I should like to share it with my readers in a more informal manner as a series of Blogs.. The introduction and first two “Glimpses” are in the Blog uploaded on October 2, 2016

 

View from the Great Wall painting by Raymond J. Steiner

View from the Great Wall painting by Raymond J. Steiner

China: Badaling (outside Beijing): We walk the Great Wall, making the effort to traverse its (restored) length. Each stone put in place by human hands — and I complain of the quivering in my calves as I descend the uneven steps! To what ends might man be pushed? How far can his spirit be broken — and how many must be so broken — to appease the Great Spirit in the Sky?

 

Germany: Regensburg: Traveling from eastern Germany (Bogen in upper Bavaria) to Vienna and Budapest, I catch fleeting glimpses of the Danube along the way, a river that has long touched my imagination. Finally, from the steps of Valhalla, I get my first real sight of this majestic stream! I’m not sure why this so affected me. Some days later, while in …

View of the Danube from Pest in Hungary

View of the Danube from Buda in Hungary

Hungary: Budapest, I’m shown a certain section of the “Blue” Danube that once ran red with the blood of slaughtered Jews — my romantic notions of that sung-about river now forever tainted. Also visited the Great Synagogue while in Budapest and was told by our Hungarian guide that it had been recently refurbished by the son of the man (a Mister Schwartz) who helped renovate Temple Emanu-El, the Reform Temple, on Park Avenue in NYC. Wanting to reconnect with his roots, the young Schwartz donated large sums of money in an effort to bring the Budapest

The Great Synagogue in Dohány Street (also known as Dohány Street Synagogue) in Budapest, Hungary

The Great Synagogue in Dohány Street (also known as Dohány Street Synagogue) in Budapest, Hungary

Synagogue back to its former glory. A “hero” to the Hungarian Jews, we are shown pictures of Schwartz junior who turns out to be none other than the actor Tony Curtis — Bernie Schwartz being his actual name! — and the rebuilding of the Budapest Synagogue just one of his many charitable undertakings.

This blog will continue each week with a new “glimpse”


Heinrich J. Jarczyk

September 17, 2012

ONCE IN awhile there are books that come across my desk which, although not appropriate for our “New Art Books” section of ART TIMES (in this case, both books are printed in German and not readily available from publishers), nevertheless deserve notice and mention – thank goodness for the invention of the ‘blog’. Both books are written and produced by my friend Heinrich J. Jarczyk, whom I first met in 1988 at an exhibition of his etchings at the German Consulate in New York City. The following year, Cornelia and I visited him and his wife, Christiana, at their home just outside Cologne (in Bergisch Gladbach) and, already impressed with his work and now getting to know the “story of his life”, I decided to profile him in ART TIMES, offering an in-depth look at Jarczyk and his work which appeared in our May 1989 Issue. If his “story” was a familiar one to many Europeans, it was new to me and, learning about a young aspiring artist being drafted into the army of the Reich, being wounded twice, constantly carrying with him his skizzenbuch (sketchbook) to capture images while “running from Patton”, having his sketchbook confiscated (never to be returned) while a prisoner of war in Belgium, and, after his release, finding after the war that his country was no place for an artist since no one had any money to buy art and even fewer had walls on which to hang such a luxury, he entered university to become a research scientist. Eventually finding a position with the Bayer Company, he began his travels at conferences around the world while retaining his old habit of always having a skizzenbuch near at hand, jotting down visual memories of people and places in pen, in pencil, in watercolor. Following my Profile of Jarczyk in ART TIMES, I’d written two books about Jarczyk — Heinrich J. Jarczyk: Toward a Vision of Wholeness (Laumann Verlag, 1992)and Heinrich J. Jarczyk: Etchings 1968-1998 (Heider Verlag, 1998 —both books published with text in English, German and French) — our relationship meanwhile growing deeper each year. We’ve visited back and forth many times over the years, even painting together in the Alps, sight-seeing both here and throughout Europe, and now, nearly twenty-five years since our first meeting, Jarczyk has published his books, Heinrich J. Jarczyk: Aus meinen Leben Erinnerungen (II) (“Memories from my Life”): Olgemalde (“Oils”) 1963-2007, 189 pp.; 8 1/8 x 10 ½; 95 Colored Illus.; List of Works; Exhibitions (2007) and Heinrich J. Jarczyk: Aus meinen Leben Erinnerungen (III) (“Memories from my Life”): (“Watercolors”) 1943-2011, 276 pp.; 8 1/8 x 10 ½; 404 Colored Illus.; List of Works; Exhibitions (2011). Combined, the books cover not only some sixty-eight years of Jarczyk’s life, but feature his paintings (oils and watercolors) from both his native Germany and from around the world – including to my great delight three watercolors contained in Book III (Nos. 378, 392 & 393) done while at our home in High Woods, New York and two others (Nos. 380 & 390) from along the Hudson River. Although Book II, Oils, is arranged by motif – stilllife, landscape, architecture, etc. – Book III gathers the work by country — e.g., Egypt, Australia, Bahamas, Belgium, China, etc., some 24 countries in total — containing some forty-five watercolors from the U.S.A., from East to West and from North to South. This “visual diary” offers the reader a sort of inside view of Jarczyk’s life-long interest in people and places — something I tried to capture in my book Heinrich J. Jarczyk: Toward a Vision of Wholeness which attempts to capture the scope of Jarczyk’s all-embracing vision of the world into which he was born. Thus, the book includes impressions from his days as a young man in the military service, through his work as a research scientist at the Bayer Company, and on through his sight-seeing days as a “free spirit” trying to improve both his skills as an artist as well as learning how to be a citizen of the world. Enhanced by his own words, Aus meinen Leben Erinnerungen (II) & (III) vastly augments and expands my “outsider” insights into Jarczyk’s “Vision of Wholeness”. As a matter of fact, Jarczyk’s Books II & III, featuring his Oils and Watercolors, was so titled to follow my earlier book on his etchings (thus, Book I) — the “trilogy” serving as a comprehensive overview of Jarczyk’s artistic oeuvre. It was Jarczyk’s masterful draftsmanship so evident in that exhibit of his etchings in NYC that drew me to both the man and his work and to see it now so manifest in his oils and watercolors is extremely gratifying — and, of course, it is due to his fine draftsmanship that these books serve so well as visual documentaries of the world. Browsing Jarczyk’s Books II & III are like leafing through books of carefully selected collections of elegantly crafted fine-art postcards from around the world. Further information about Heinrich J. Jarczyk and his work, especially his Profile and books by me, can be found by emailing us at info@arttimesjournal.com; information about or requests to purchase these latest books on his Oils and Watercolors should be referred to hj-c.jarczyk@t-online.de.


Visiting Germany — a short Overview

June 12, 2010

June, 2010

By RAYMOND J. STEINER

ALTHOUGH MORE WILL be coming later — reviews of two shows (Max Lazarus in Trier and Heinrich J. Jarczyk in Konigswinter) — I feel I ought to unload some of the images and memories of my trip before they are forever lost to a memory that grows more unreliable every day. Our flight from JFK to Düsseldorf by Air Berlin was uneventful, the journey a bit cramped for the seven or so hours of travel but the attendants pleasant and accommodating. At Düsseldorf, we were met by Heinrich Jarczyk and his wife Christiane who immediately whisked us away to their home just outside of Cologne in Bergisch Gladbach. There we freshened up, caught up on new and old news, enjoying a cold beer on their terrace overlooking a “homey” view of the neighboring backyards, all sporting well-kept lawns and gardens already in full bloom with spring flowers.

Jörg Iwan, Jacky Sparkowsky, Cornelia Seckel, Raymond J. Steiner on the terrace of Castle Reichsburg in Cochem, Germany

Jörg Iwan, Jacky Sparkowsky, Cornelia Seckel, Raymond J. Steiner on the terrace of Castle Reichsburg in Cochem, Germany

During our stay with the Jarczyk’s, Heinz and I went into Cologne — always a fascinating city for me, my many visits always seeming to be too brief, the intervals too far apart. We went to the Wallraf-Richartz Museum where we saw a show of landscapes by Max Lieberman, Max Slevogt and Lovis Corinth. It is always an informative session to visit a museum with Jarczyk — who is well-versed in both history and art. During our viewing of the landscape paintings, we could discuss our favorites, point out our likes and dislikes, in the end often in full agreement as to the best work of each of the artists. We also learned from a wall-placard that Corinth, a follower of the post-impressionist artists, declared “realist” painters “Shtümpers” — i.e. “bunglers”. As we read, we looked at each other and almost said simultaneously, “So, now I know what kind of painter I am!” A good laugh and then on to an outdoor café, which was on a street facing the Cathedral. I still recall my first glimpse of the “Dom”, bathed in light when we arrived in the evening by train from Paris, now over twenty years ago. Largely untouched by our bombers during WWII, the Cathedral stands as an enduring testament to mankind’s almost super-human efforts to please the Creator…it is, in brief, a very beautiful structure. I was a bit saddened to see, however, that the large, paved area in front of the imposing front steps and façade is now filled not only with tourists but also by a noisy bunch of skate-boarders, whose antics threaten passers-by with bodily injury as well as several mimes begging attention and whatever coins might be dropped in a nearby box — at least the mimes were silent!

Our next adventure began when our friends and oft-time fellow-travelers Jacky Sparkowsky and Jörg Iwan of Berlin came to pick us up for a five-day exploratory trip of the Mosel River. Famous for its vineyards that border the river — and its Riesling grape — we had hours of wine-drinking, sight-seeing, and conversation over our meals. We split up our time between two hotels — one in Cochem, the second in Bernkastel — from which we made forays both up and down the river, visiting small towns nestled into hillsides, almost completely overtaken by vineyards that were just beginning to fruit. Our main purpose was to seek out cozy restaurants, friendly “weinstuben” (wine-bars) and interesting sites — which, of course, included castles, historic places, and Roman ruins. Our final destination was Trier — believed to be the oldest city in Germany — home of Constantine (eventual founder of Constantinople and largely known as the disseminator of Christianity throughout the Roman Empire) and site of the remnants of Celtic, Roman and, naturally, of early German civilizations. Though generally thought to be owed to the Romans, the existence of the grapevine in the region may have been already brought to the Mosel banks by the Celts — in any event, the grape and its products dominate the region, very nearly every square foot of every possible hillside that could be cleared given over to its cultivation.

Thus far our travels, and now we are returned to Bergisch Gladbach, taking a small breather before we go to Konigswinter on Sunday to see Jarczyk’s exhibition at Haus Schlesien.

More later….