Apples and Pears and Other Vegetables
Korbinian Aigner's fruit paintings in dialogue with the Würth Collection
18 June 2018 to 6 January 2019
Crunchy, fresh and appetising is how the apples and pears in the watercolours by Korbinian Aigner (1885–1996) appear to viewers. With the curiosity of a naturalist and the talent of an artist, over a period of decades the pastor and fruit cultivator painted hundreds of species, all in a practical postcard size. Meticulously numbered and named, they were intended to document a diversity of species that was already disappearing during Aigner’s lifetime, but they also testify to his love of nature. Originally the watercolours were supposed to function as teaching materials. They only attained their current fame after the artist’s death, attracting international attention in the art world at dOCUMENTA (13) in Kassel in 2012. A large number of the 602 apple and 275 pear pictures that have been preserved in the TUM.Archiv of the Technical University of Munich (TUM) are now on show at Museum Würth in cooperation with the TUM. Aigner’s scholarly approach is visible in the precise detail of his illustrations, which also fascinate us because of the lively presence he created.
The exhibition also commemorates the person of Korbinian Aigner, a dedicated theologian who not only championed fruit cultivation and his parish, but also spent many years in the concentration camps Sachsenhausen and Dachau because of his criticism of National Socialism. In the camp in Dachau the passionate pomologist even succeeded against all odds in cultivating four types of apple, which he labelled KZ-1 to KZ4. Today KZ 3, known as the Korbinian Apple, is a tip from people in the know. The dialogue with works from the Würth Collection heightens aspects that emerge in association with Korbinian Aigner’s watercolours. The exhibition therefore includes a series of fruit and vegetable still lifes from different eras, ranging from Karl Hofer (1878–1955) to Georges Braque (1882–1963) to Max Beckmann (1884–1950), known as representatives of Classical Modernism. This journey takes us on to hyperrealistic works by Gerd Dengler (*1939), Anne Hausner (*1943) or Jan Peter Tripp (*1945), on to other contemporary positions by Alberto Corazón (*1942) and Nadin Maria Rüfenacht (*1980). This tour through a range of styles and eras indicates that a genre as traditional as the still life only survives through by engaging with itself thereby introducing a lot of new life into a genre that is not so “still” at all.
The motif of the apple itself is also of great historical and symbolic wealth. As a “forbidden fruit” it appears in variations of the Adam and Eve motif by Alfred Hrdlicka (1928-2009), Karl Hurm (*1930) or Fernando Botero (*1932). Moreover, the golden apples guarded by the Hesperides and promising eternal life to the gods of Greek mythology or the Goddess Eris’s apple of discord, which Paris was to present to the most beautiful woman, find their way into works by artists like Petra Lemmerz (*1957) or Heinrich Brummack (1936–2018).
The viewers are brought back down to earth, however, by works located in the border area between art and science and are indebted to the observation and exploration of nature. In the “natural science cabinet” the masterful watercolours of mushrooms by an unknown author, deceptively authentic looking wax and alabaster fruits and reproductions of fruit and plant photographs by August Kotzsch (1836–1910) and Karl Blossfeldt (1865–1932) all provide great insight into natural science around the turn of the 19th to 20th century.
In addition to these, the exhibition contains several series of work, each devoted in its own way to a research approach. Thus nature becomes an object of study in works by Salomé (*1954) and herman de vries (*1931), while Raffael Rheinsberg (1943–2016) or Adolfo Riestra (1944–1989) were preoccupied with everyday items such as tools or vases.
With this exhibition and a colourful accompanying programme, over several months Museum Würth will be celebrating apples and pears – from their blossoming to their fermentation. An exhibition catalogue will be published by Swiridoff Verlag, Künzelsau.