Celebrating the end of the first semester the Tropical Forestry Master Course had the pleasure to visit the art gallery “Neue Meister” at the Albertinum in Dresden together with Professor Pretzsch and the Ph.D. students. As one current main exhibition is referring to the German Forest (“Deutscher Wald”), we had the wonderful opportunity to finish the first semester with combining issues of forestry, culture, and history. Thus, this one-day excursion was not only a linkage of free time activity and study but also a chance of reflecting and re-framing our perspective of nature and forestry.
Starting with paintings of the romantic artists including Caspar David Friedrich, Ferdinand von Rayski and Eduard Leonhardi, we directly came to a key era in German art history: most romantic painters preferred natural themes and used to portrait nature as a quiet, lovely, and sometimes even protective environment. Therefore, forests and nature as a whole appear often as a desirable and valuable object which is sensitively balanced and has to be protected carefully from human influence.With some critical awareness, it certainly cannot be denied that romantic artists often took up ideas from the ancient German mythology and therefore also reproduced the “German Forest” as an ideological pattern for the parallelly upcoming nationalism. But considering that the widely presented ‘pure’ and ‘wild’ nature in the romantic era is little more than a projection of a cultural yearning for harmony and simplicity, the viewer can enjoy the paintings as what they substantially are: artwork.
It is thus no coincidence that romantic literature and painting became famous when the German society was faced with fundamental changes such as industrialisation, urbanisation, and religious singularisation.
Besides the main topic of the exhibition, forests, we also had the opportunity to view paintings of other historical and contemporary painters, such as Wilhelm Busch or Otto Dix who is well known for visualising all the damage and horror that came with a new era of highly industrialized modern warfare in Europe.
All in all, we had a nice cultural experience in visiting the gallery: some might have changed their view on what we used to call ‘nature’, others just liked to watch the paintings. In any case, each participant could certainly gain his or her individual enrichment.
By Johannes Heinsdorf