Stuck on you
Still unable to face the big historical sights in Munich like the labyrinthine ‘residence’ or massive ‘Kunst Haus’ (art house), I picked the more approachable ‘Villa Stuck’ for my first museum excursion.
Home to one of Munich’s greatest home-grown artists, Franz von Stuck, and a temple to his work and interests. The building itself is, like so much in Munich, a reconstruction and, like so much in Munich, lacks the antiquated charm you might hope for.
However, once inside the interiors seemed to be genuine and certainly were atmospheric, with Stuck’s mixture of Egyptian, Grecco-Roman and mediaeval style interiors framing a handful of his dramatic paintings, again largely on classical and mediaeval themes. The combined effect is a sort of historical/mythological aesthetic revel and looks massively decadent.
Stuck’s paintings are magnificent, but they can also be pretty dark. In particular I spotted one picture in the gift shop; the ‘Wilde Jagd’ a truly haunting depiction of a very Hitler resembling wild horseman, mid-gallop, accompanied by a pack of black dogs, sword drawn carving his way through hollowed semi-mummified half-beings! I have to get to see this picture, but cannot see it currently as its home, the Lenbachhaus, is being totally refurbished till 2012.
Villa Stuck is plastered with representations of von Stuck semi-naked showing off his muscles in Greek god like poses. Women appear, generally with more clothes on, as forest nymphs or again in the style of the ancients.
Art nouveau styles can be pretty light hearted and delicate in England, but not here, Villa Stuck is dark (partly because nobody had drawn the curtains I grant you) and sombre, with wooded, gold inlaid walls covered in classical scenes. The centrepiece room is dominated by a temple to some goddess (I failed to translate the guide), represented by a Stuck painting as a cross between Athene and a thoroughly modern woman. No doubt this is how they liked to dress up for parties at the villa. Again though, she is looking non too cherry about being a deity and indeed looks more demon than anything with a greenish pallor and dark hollowed eyes.
With all these slightly macabre scenes it is perhaps no surprise that Franz von Stuck has been tarnished with the epitaph of being one of Hitler’s favourites, though a bit experimental for the Führer’s usually conservative tastes I’d have thought (Perhaps it came a bit too early to be labelled degenerate art – though if anything ever deserved the label!). Thanks also to the holocaust-history.org forum for the fact that Wilde Jagd was painted the year of the Führer’s birth!(1889). However, these things are incidental to the broader legacy. Von Stuck has a place as one of Munich’s biggest artistic names and he spurred a whole mini-school of painting, tutoring and heavily influencing such greats as Kadinsky and Klee.
As well as the permanent exhibition, there is a large part of the villa given to rotating exhibits, often with something proper contemporary upstairs. My favourite included a half story exhibition that made you bend double to view it – Being John Malkovich style.