The Peasants’ War is a monumental panorama panoramic painting of the Peasants’ War (title of the artwork: Early Bourgeois Revolution in Germany), the Leipzig painter and art professor Werner Tübke . It is located in a purpose-built complex, the Panorama Museum, at the Battle Mountain in the Thuringian town of Bad Frankenhausen Kyffhäuser at the foot of mountains. The artwork was created in the years 1976 to 1987, originally to commemorate the German Peasants’ War and the peasant leader Thomas Müntzer. With an area of 1722 m² it is one of the largest panel paintings in the world.
At the 450-years jubilee of the battle, the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED) charged the rector of the Leipzig Academy of Visual Arts, Professor Werner Tübke, with the creation of a monumental panorama painting. The work was created in place in a specially erected rotunda. It is 123 m/404 ft in length and 14 m/46 ft in height and depicts more than 3000 individuals.
The panorama was inaugurated by Kurt Hager and Margot Honecker as deputy for her husband on September 14, 1989, thus eight weeks before the fall of the Berlin Wall.
The Panorama Museum at Bad Frankenhausen is the only public museum in Germany and possibly even throughout Europe, if one does not consider some very few smaller private institutions for instance in Holland, that dedicates its exhibition program to figurative art of most distinguished international standing today.
This goal of conception is the result of a very unique character of the museum itself. Centre stage of the museum takes the monumental panorama painting by Werner Tübke (1929–2004) created in oil on canvas over eleven years. This work, a universal epoch painting carried out in the artists own very personal way, depicts the turning point from the late Middle Ages to the Modern Era in the Christian West as a whole ‘teatrum mundi’ of human passion and behavior. Subject is the history of man represented by everlasting archetypes, based on a revival of tradition. Stylistically you can characterize it as a sort of neo-mannerism in the way of the old masters which is, according to Umberto Eco, tantamount to postmodernism.
In addition, since 1992 there are held temporary exhibitions of different art historical subjects as well as of contemporary representational art, predominantly of a very specific old-masterly, metaphorical style appropriate to the work of Werner Tübke. But the conceptual spectrum of projects is pretty broad. Artistically it ranges from realism to fantastic fiction. The idea is to contextualize the work of Werner Tübke as one of the most significant achievements in the arts of today. To portray this context is the most reasonable and distinguished mission of the Panorama Museum. What concerns me primarily is to give priority to comparable artistic achievements which are absolutely not in the focus of today’s art scene, but exist throughout the times as singular feats constituting the world’s finest art history. Top artistic qualities such as mastery of means, perfect skill, worldliness and complex intellectual purport are basic values and indispensable preconditions for any acceptance to get exhibited at the Panorama Museum. Sure, this is a very unique concept and bound to be most subjective. But it’s also the only stable basis for a veritable work at the museum.
This concept manifests best in the series of exhibitions held at the Panorama Museum since 1992. These exhibitions, represent a kind of ‘imaginary museum’ of mostly contemporary figurative and representational art of highest international standing that, for about 20 years now, pursues rather obvious primary routes as well as some times hidden byways of art history which, to a great extent, are forgotten or at least widely ignored by other public museums and art critics nearly worldwide. Even the academic discourse omits turning to these subjects, masters and artistic currents. Thus the Panorama Museum is unceasingly running against the often trivial output of the mainstream of the modern art scene, insisting on everlasting values of great art such as skill and mastery or being bound on tradition as well as the depiction of a complex conception of the world in total. This approach is quite conservative but complies perfectly with the primal understanding of what a museum actually is representing. Conservation is a key term of any museum self-understanding even today. It should be reintroduced into the museum as one of the basics of work again. It is not at all enough to repeat continuously blockbuster shows of modern art either, not to speak of all the widespread trivia to be found everywhere. Art museums are not only focal points of the cultural memory of man. They are committed to preserve first of all the top of artistic legacies independent of current trends and any prevailing zeitgeist. This is my opinion, this is what I deeply believe in and what I try to enforce, and this above all gives the Panorama Museum its distinctiveness and such a singular position within the contemporary art scene as it meanwhile might has obtained not only in Germany but in Europe and – maybe – even beyond.
Am Schlachtberg 9
06567 Bad Frankenhausen
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