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Portrait View - Poets in the Language Cloud

Portrait View – Poets in the Language Cloud

The cover girl from the exhibition “The View from the Frame. Donation Klewan Collection” is Elfriede Jelinek. It was a long time before she won the Nobel Prize in Literature when Isolde Ohlbaum brought her to the camera in Munich in 1979. She looks at us boldly, defiantly and direct as she holds a cigarette, but there are only a dozen women who appear in engravings, engravings, paintings or photographs in a hall filled with With pictures. Among the more than thirty portraits by Ohlbaum, especially in the Austrian department: Thomas Bernhard, Elias Canetti, Wolfgang Bauer, Peter Turrini, Gerhard Rühm, Hans Carl Artmann are some of the others. It was particularly successful with a double portrait of the poet Friedrich Meyerker and Ernst Jandel. Helmut Klewan worked as a gallery owner in Vienna and Munich, and one of his first clients was Rudolf Leopold, which is why his museum now gets a thousand pictures of the former author as a gift.

Günter Grass with Snail

The show was designed by curator Stefan Kotzenberger, who combined some of the several hundred exhibits in loosely suspended linguistic clouds without flooding our understanding. It is not just a geographic and therefore national border, the Austrians have their own focus in the German-speaking region. The interweaving of the arts—for example, when Pablo Picasso records Max Jacob in a painting or Günter Grass paints himself with a snail—creates a fascination with the double happiness of the collector. A photo of Kliwan’s apartment in Munich shows that the former Saint Petersburg is hung in order to have as many authors as possible.

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Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra as seen by Salvador Dali in 1966 – in the background a young Don Quijote. – © Salvador Dali, Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí / Bildrecht, Vienna 2022

In the ceiling hall in front of the show, a collection of paintings by Peter Singel presents the subject: Hermann Hesse, Marcel Proust, Charles Baudelaire, Antonin Artaud, Franz Kafka, Arno Schmidt, Franz Werfel or Thomas Mann.

There are wonderful accompanying stories in the catalog, especially from the collector himself, from his encounters with the writers, for whom he also took photographs – such as Alfred Mosch, Anselm Gluck or Ferdinand Schmatz. Franz Hopmann acquired Ilse Aichinger and Ingeborg Bachmann as a duo, as well as Heimito von Doderer and Heinrich Böll. August Sander left an interesting group with Raoul Hausmann, his wife Hedwig and Eva Proido. It was important to Max Jacobi to photograph several Nobel Prize winners in Berlin, in addition to Paul and Grass, John dos Passos, Fritz Baumgart and Walter Holler can be seen. But there are also poets such as Mann, Rainer Maria Rilke, Edgar Allen Poe and Friedrich Nietzsche, who formed subgroups in many portraits of the artists.

Cover girl Elfriede Jelinek by photographer Eswald Ohlbaum.  - © Isolde Ohlbaum
Cover girl Elfriede Jelinek by photographer Eswald Ohlbaum. – © Isolde Ohlbaum

In addition to those already mentioned across hundreds of years of literary history, poets are also Charlotte Bronte, Bettina von Arnim, George Sand, Gertrude Stein, Laurie (Colette Bigneau), Annette von Drust-Holshof, Marie von Ebner Eschenbach or Ricarda Hoch. Like Emil Orlik or Oskar Kokoschka, German painter Horst Janssen is represented in many works; Kokoschka painted by Ezra Pound, Paul Sherbart, Richard DeMille, and Herwarth Walden.

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Distinctive features, along with a late, anonymous photograph of Pound, shots by Rosemary Clausen of Beckett, interweaving lines of Alberto Giacometti around Jean Genet’s head, the anonymous photograph of Ernst Mach on his desk, Jacques Sassier’s shot of Emile Michel Cioran, Gisèle Freunds photographs of James Joyce , but there is also a drawing by Günter Brus for this image. The Russian section also contains great works, Max Beckmann and Felix Vallotton have dedicated themselves to drawings by Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky, Picasso, Leo Tolstoy, Alexander Rodchenko, Vladimir Mayakovsky and Il Lisitsky, there are two wonderful double exposures of Kurt Schwitters’ face during his performance of Dada in the Schweizer Wolke.

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The Klewan collector studied art history with Otto Demus, Otto Bakht and Fritz Nowotny before he was known as an art dealer, and it is unfortunate that these art history heroes did not come before the camera, and his networks with authors, artists, and photographers such as Ohlbaum, in charge of his collection were important but remarkable.