Kunstmuseum Basel

On the first Sunday of the month, the Museum of Art in Basel opens its doors for free, so today I went. It's the biggest art collection in Switzerland, and one of the most impressive museums in the world, and I had a good time and came out inspired. Here are a few paintings that had a particularly strong effect on me.

  THREE WOMEN AND A YOUNG GIRL PLAYING IN THE WATER  by Felix Valloton, 1907.   Absolutely gorgeous painting by Swiss Painter Felix Valloton that I stood in front for a long time. I like the combination of the soft colors with the sharp lines. To me, the women represent both the beauty and the struggles of femininity, how they hold each other in solidarity, excluding the girl maybe out of a sense of protection. She seems in a hurry to grow up, to belong: Her lips look like they are painted red, but her exposed sex signifies innocence, something the others have lost. 

THREE WOMEN AND A YOUNG GIRL PLAYING IN THE WATER by Felix Valloton, 1907. 

Absolutely gorgeous painting by Swiss Painter Felix Valloton that I stood in front for a long time. I like the combination of the soft colors with the sharp lines. To me, the women represent both the beauty and the struggles of femininity, how they hold each other in solidarity, excluding the girl maybe out of a sense of protection. She seems in a hurry to grow up, to belong: Her lips look like they are painted red, but her exposed sex signifies innocence, something the others have lost. 

  ISLE OF THE DEAD  by Arnold Böcklin, 1886  This very famous painting by Swiss artist Arnold Böcklin is one I have liked for a long time, but I have never seen it 'in person', so to speak. I had read it was at the museum but when I didn't see it anywhere, I thought maybe I was mistaken. As I was browsing through the museum shop at the end of my visit, I saw a postcard of it and asked whether the painting was being shown. She told me that it had temporarily been moved to another part of the museum (oddly an area where they were showing contemporary art, and who gives a fuck about that?), so I went and got to look at it. I was already tired at that point - my brain shuts down after about an hour in museums because it absorbs so much - so I wasn't as receptive as I would have liked to be. Will surely go back at some point and give it my full attention. It's a little smaller than I expected.

ISLE OF THE DEAD by Arnold Böcklin, 1886

This very famous painting by Swiss artist Arnold Böcklin is one I have liked for a long time, but I have never seen it 'in person', so to speak. I had read it was at the museum but when I didn't see it anywhere, I thought maybe I was mistaken. As I was browsing through the museum shop at the end of my visit, I saw a postcard of it and asked whether the painting was being shown. She told me that it had temporarily been moved to another part of the museum (oddly an area where they were showing contemporary art, and who gives a fuck about that?), so I went and got to look at it. I was already tired at that point - my brain shuts down after about an hour in museums because it absorbs so much - so I wasn't as receptive as I would have liked to be. Will surely go back at some point and give it my full attention. It's a little smaller than I expected.

  DISAPPOINTED SOUL (YOUNG MAN)  by Friedrich Hodler,   Hodler is one of my favorite painters, and they have quite a few of his works there. This is from a series of works revolving around disappointed souls,    and it spoke to me a lot. The young man's posture, burdened with a heaviness his shoulders seem unable to carry, actually reminded me of a boy I had a big crush on in high school - and a little longer. As I stood in front of it I wondered whether he has ever seen this painting and found himself in it, too.

DISAPPOINTED SOUL (YOUNG MAN) by Friedrich Hodler, 

Hodler is one of my favorite painters, and they have quite a few of his works there. This is from a series of works revolving around disappointed souls,  and it spoke to me a lot. The young man's posture, burdened with a heaviness his shoulders seem unable to carry, actually reminded me of a boy I had a big crush on in high school - and a little longer. As I stood in front of it I wondered whether he has ever seen this painting and found himself in it, too.

  DISAPPOINTED SOUL (OLD MAN)  by Friedrich Hodler, 1889  Here we've got the disappointed soul as an old man.

DISAPPOINTED SOUL (OLD MAN) by Friedrich Hodler, 1889

Here we've got the disappointed soul as an old man.

  THE FATE OF THE ANIMALS  by Franz Marc, 1913  Franz Marc is a painter I have been aware of but his style never spoke to me (it reminded me too much of Chagall), but today I sat transfixed in front of this painting that was finished shortly before the outbreak of World War I. Reading about the painting it becomes clear that it is one of foreshadowing and great enigmatic power. And you can feel it. Depicting animals in the woods struggling in a fire, the painting itself was partially burned down in a fire and later restored by Paul Klee. It is unclear why Klee decided to use brown color for his restoration.

THE FATE OF THE ANIMALS by Franz Marc, 1913

Franz Marc is a painter I have been aware of but his style never spoke to me (it reminded me too much of Chagall), but today I sat transfixed in front of this painting that was finished shortly before the outbreak of World War I. Reading about the painting it becomes clear that it is one of foreshadowing and great enigmatic power. And you can feel it. Depicting animals in the woods struggling in a fire, the painting itself was partially burned down in a fire and later restored by Paul Klee. It is unclear why Klee decided to use brown color for his restoration.

  THE RETURN OF THE ANIMALS  by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, 1919  I'm not sure I would have much of a reaction to this painting had I come across a picture of it online or in a book. I tend to prefer paintings of people over landscapes, and even aside from that I wouldn't really describe it as 'my style', but this is the one painting in the entire museum that totally pulled me in, that asked for my full attention, that begged me to stay, and so I did. At first I thought the reason why I responded so strongly to it had to do with my childhood - it depicts the return of cows and goats after spending the summer in higher altitudes, an event I witnessed many times as a child growing up in the Swiss Alps. It wasn't special to me then. But when you're separated from memories like that, not just by geography but also by time, the most ordinary things can suddenly become meaningful. You realize how the animals' ascent marks the beginning of summer (there's an excitement), and their descent the end (there's a sadness), and how much it represents the cycle of life. The colors in this little picture here don't even come close to what they are like in reality. They're so vibrant and rich they seem alive. Standing in front of it was nothing short of a magical experience and it sparked an interest in learning more about Kirchner. 

THE RETURN OF THE ANIMALS by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, 1919

I'm not sure I would have much of a reaction to this painting had I come across a picture of it online or in a book. I tend to prefer paintings of people over landscapes, and even aside from that I wouldn't really describe it as 'my style', but this is the one painting in the entire museum that totally pulled me in, that asked for my full attention, that begged me to stay, and so I did. At first I thought the reason why I responded so strongly to it had to do with my childhood - it depicts the return of cows and goats after spending the summer in higher altitudes, an event I witnessed many times as a child growing up in the Swiss Alps. It wasn't special to me then. But when you're separated from memories like that, not just by geography but also by time, the most ordinary things can suddenly become meaningful. You realize how the animals' ascent marks the beginning of summer (there's an excitement), and their descent the end (there's a sadness), and how much it represents the cycle of life. The colors in this little picture here don't even come close to what they are like in reality. They're so vibrant and rich they seem alive. Standing in front of it was nothing short of a magical experience and it sparked an interest in learning more about Kirchner. 

  SEATED HARLEQUIN  by Pablo Picasso, 1923  When he doesn't paint people with distorted faces, I really enjoy Picasso. The museum has one of the biggest Picasso collections in the world, if not the biggest - many of these works were gifted to the city of Basel by the artist himself. This painting has a strong appeal - you can almost hear the harlequin breathe. He represents the creative spirit and the personalities traits often attributed to artists, and I found it funny that he reminded me of Buster Keaton.

SEATED HARLEQUIN by Pablo Picasso, 1923

When he doesn't paint people with distorted faces, I really enjoy Picasso. The museum has one of the biggest Picasso collections in the world, if not the biggest - many of these works were gifted to the city of Basel by the artist himself. This painting has a strong appeal - you can almost hear the harlequin breathe. He represents the creative spirit and the personalities traits often attributed to artists, and I found it funny that he reminded me of Buster Keaton.

  SLEEPING BOY IN THE HAY  by Albert Anker, 1897  Albert Anker is probably the most popular Swiss painter, I have been aware of his work since I was a little child, he was just  everywhere,  there was simply no escape. Only today as I strolled through the museum did I  look  at his work and realized how good it actually is. This spoke to me a lot. It's very romantic in its depiction of innocence, and very Swiss. I wondered what the little boy is dreaming of.

SLEEPING BOY IN THE HAY by Albert Anker, 1897

Albert Anker is probably the most popular Swiss painter, I have been aware of his work since I was a little child, he was just everywhere, there was simply no escape. Only today as I strolled through the museum did I look at his work and realized how good it actually is. This spoke to me a lot. It's very romantic in its depiction of innocence, and very Swiss. I wondered what the little boy is dreaming of.

  STREET IN ASGARDSTRAND  by Edvard Munch, 1901  I guess this spoke to me because I saw myself in it. I felt very much like an outsider growing up, and I felt particularly disconnected during puberty. It seemed like all the other girls were in in some secret that I didn't understand. This I see represented in the circle of girls or women standing so close together that it looks like they won't let you in. And the heroine is standing alone, facing away from them, looking at us very directly - she doesn't seem confused nor distraught, her gaze is too confident. She seems okay to be standing alone. And yet she's wondering - asking us - where her place is in the world. I don't know anything about the background of this painting, but to me it's about identity. 

STREET IN ASGARDSTRAND by Edvard Munch, 1901

I guess this spoke to me because I saw myself in it. I felt very much like an outsider growing up, and I felt particularly disconnected during puberty. It seemed like all the other girls were in in some secret that I didn't understand. This I see represented in the circle of girls or women standing so close together that it looks like they won't let you in. And the heroine is standing alone, facing away from them, looking at us very directly - she doesn't seem confused nor distraught, her gaze is too confident. She seems okay to be standing alone. And yet she's wondering - asking us - where her place is in the world. I don't know anything about the background of this painting, but to me it's about identity.