ART SEEN - Friedrich Dürrenmatt
Always on the lookout for new cultural visits off the beaten track, Uli was excited to read about the Friedrich Dürrenmatt Center and intrigued to learn that apart from his literary career, the famous Swiss author had been painting all his life.
Here's Uli's review of the author and painters private exhibition at his villa in Neuchâtel.
The museum is housed in the villa where Dürrenmatt lived until his death, high above Neuchâtel. Born and raised in the German speaking part of Switzerland, near Bern, he participated little in the life of French speaking Neuchâtel, although he lived there for almost 40 years.
Adorned with a modern extension designed by award-winning architect Mario Botta, the center gives visitors insights into Dürrenmatt's life, his literary achievements, as well as his oeuvre as a painter. It is possible to visit Dürrenmatt's personal library (ask at reception), today's cafeteria is the author's former workroom, and visitors can glimpse into the original toilet of the family with walls and ceiling hand painted by Dürrenmatt and subsequently referred to by himself and his family as the 'Sistine Chapel'.
The 'Sistine Chapel', according to Dürrenmatt
Dürrenmatt owes his international fame mainly to his stage plays and the many film adaptions of his detective novels (e.g. 'The Judge and his Hangman', directed by Maximilian Schell, starring Jon Voight, Robert Shaw, Donald Sutherland and Jacqueline Bisset). With plays like the The Visit (laying bare moral hypocrisy) and The Physicists (calling into question the scientific world's political responsibility), he became the most produced contemporary German-language playwright of his time and achieved international acclaim.
The museum disposes of a little cinema, where visitors can watch a choice of theatre and film adaptations in French and German. Visitors can see pages from original manuscripts with personal notes. In addition to the bilingual German/ French explanations of the exhibits, an information sheet in English language is available at reception for English speaking visitors.
Views from the gallery into the below curved exhibition room of Mario Botta's sober extension, already offer visitors an overview on the impressive artistic work of Dürrenmatt the painter, before stepping down to reach eye level.
The imagery of his paintings and drawings focus on mythological, historical and biblical themes such as the Minotaur, the Tower of Babel or the Crucifixion as well as astronomy or portraits. His portraits include his second wife Charlotte Kerr and friends, actors. The collection also includes caricatures, illustrations for his literary works and story-telling drawings he created for this own children.
Although mainly influenced by expressionism, his paintings and drawings also show echoes of Bruegel, Bosch or Goya, as well as Swiss painter Varlin, who was a personal friend of his and who himself, created the huge portrait of Friedrich Dürrenmatt, also shown in the Museum.
He used a wide variety of techniques, including oil, gouache, collages and lithography.
In short, the Dürrenmatt Center is worth a visit, even just to discover Dürrenmatt the painter.
Uli's hot tips:
Local brasserie 'Le Cardinal' is worth a visit with rather beautiful green wood panelling and wall mosaics, they also serve delicious food and happen to be in a rather convenient location for a little afternoon boutique shopping in the charming pedestrian streets of the old town. Alternatively, VIO Lifestyle Restaurant by the lake has a great terrace with a contemporary interior and gorgeous views by the lake.