Portrait Mode – Poets in the Language Cloud

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The cover girl of the exhibition “The View from the Frame. Donation Klewan Collection” is Elfriede Jelinek. It took a long time for her to win the Nobel Prize in Literature when Isolde Ohlbaum brought her on camera in Munich in 1979. She looks at us boldly, defiantly and directly as she holds a cigarette, but there there are only a dozen women who appear in etchings, etchings, paintings or photographs in a room full of images. Among the more than thirty portraits of Ohlbaum, especially in the Austrian department: Thomas Bernhard, Elias Canetti, Wolfgang Bauer, Peter Turrini, Gerhard Rühm, Hans Carl Artmann are some of them. It was particularly successful with a double portrait of the poet Friedrich Meyerker and Ernst Jandel. Helmut Klewan worked as a gallery owner in Vienna and Munich, and one of his first clients was Rudolf Leopold, which is why his museum now receives a thousand photos of the former author as gifts.

Günter Grass with snail

The exhibit was designed by curator Stefan Kotzenberger, who combined some of the hundreds of exhibits into loosely hanging linguistic clouds without overwhelming our understanding. It is not only a geographical and therefore national border, the Austrians have their own center of interest in the German-speaking region. The intertwining of the arts – for example, when Pablo Picasso records Max Jacob in a painting or Günter Grass paints himself with a snail – creates a fascination with the collector’s double happiness. A photo of Kliwan’s apartment in Munich shows that the old St. Petersburg is hung in order to have as many authors as possible.

Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra seen by Salvador Dali in 1966 – in the background a young Don Quijote. – © Salvador Dali, Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí / Bildrecht, Vienna 2022

In the ceiling room in front of the exhibition, a collection of paintings by Peter Singel presents the subject: Hermann Hesse, Marcel Proust, Charles Baudelaire, Antonin Artaud, Franz Kafka, Arno Schmidt, Franz Werfel or Thomas Mann.

Magnificent stories accompany the catalog, in particular from the collector himself, from his encounters with the writers, for whom he also took photos – such as Alfred Mosch, Anselm Gluck or Ferdinand Schmatz. Franz Hopmann acquired Ilse Aichinger and Ingeborg Bachmann as a duo, as well as Heimito von Doderer and Heinrich Böll. August Sander left an interesting group with Raoul Hausmann, his wife Hedwige and Eva Proido. It was important for Max Jacobi to photograph several Nobel laureates in Berlin, in addition to Paul and Grass, John dos Passos, Fritz Baumgart and Walter Holler can be seen. But there are also poets like Mann, Rainer Maria Rilke, Edgar Allen Poe and Friedrich Nietzsche, who formed subgroups in many portrait artists.

Cover girl Elfriede Jelinek by photographer Eswald Ohlbaum. – © Isolde Ohlbaum

Besides those already cited throughout hundreds of years of literary history, the poets are also Charlotte Brontë, Bettina von Arnim, George Sand, Gertrude Stein, Laurie (Colette Bigneau), Annette von Drust-Holshof, Marie von Ebner Eschenbach or Ricarda Hoch. Like Emil Orlik or Oskar Kokoschka, the German painter Horst Janssen is represented in many works; Kokoschka painted by Ezra Pound, Paul Sherbart, Richard DeMille and Herwarth Walden.

convertible schwitters

Distinctive features, as well as a late and anonymous photograph by Pound, snapshots of Rosemary Clausen of Beckett, the intertwining lines of Alberto Giacometti around Jean Genet’s head, the anonymous photograph of Ernst Mach on his desk, the shot by Jacques Sassier by Emile Michel Cioran, Gisèle Freunds photographs by James Joyce, but there is also a drawing by Günter Brus for this image. The Russian section also contains great works, Max Beckmann and Felix Vallotton devoted themselves to drawings by Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky, Picasso, Leo Tolstoy, Alexander Rodchenko, Vladimir Mayakovsky and Il Lisitsky, there are two magnificent double exposures of the face of Kurt Schwitters during his performance of Dada in the Schweizer Wolke.

Collector Klewan studied art history with Otto Demus, Otto Bakht and Fritz Nowotny before becoming known as an art dealer, and it is unfortunate that these heroes of art history did not not presented on camera, and his networks with authors, artists and photographers like Ohlbaum, responsible for his collection, were important but remarkable.

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