Hermann Hesse, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature 1946, is definitely lesser known for his activity as a painter than for his literary masterpieces, from Demian to Narcissus and Goldmund, from Siddharta to The Glass Bead Game. The exhibition organized by the Hermann Geiger Cultural Foundation and curated by the Art Director, Alessandro Schiavetti, presents the more intimate, hidden side of an all-round artist who found relief from his existential distress in pictorial expression. On the advice of his psychoanalyst, a disciple of Carl Gustav Jung, Hesse was initially reluctant to start using colours and brushes, but then he felt so relieved that painting became his preferred activity. Fascinated by the beauty of nature and attracted by the expressive power of colour, Hesse painted over three thousand watercolours during his life, mainly depicting dreamy, brightly coloured landscapes in Ticino, but he also illustrated small volumes and booklets of poems.
Hermann Hesse’s beginnings as a painter date back to 1916, a difficult year marked by a deepening personal and creative crisis. The Collina d’Oro landscapes around Montagnola, near Lugano, where the writer moved in 1919, and the summer colours of Ticino became a source of inspiration and nourishment for a long-lasting passion that would conquer Hesse bringing him joy and peace of mind. In the following thirty years, though aware of his amateurish approach, Hermann Hesse always considered painting as a very important expressive form.
The exhibition at the Hermann Geiger Cultural Foundation presents a selection of 36 small watercolour pictures, almost all depicting landscapes of Ticino; three of them are displayed to the public for the first time. A pencil self-portrait and several unpublished drawings accompany the watercolours on show. The works are representative of the quality and style of the painter Hesse.
The exhibition also includes several period photographs as well as personal objects belonging to Hermann Hesse and linked to his life in Montagnola, such as his walking stick and the travelling case containing his brushes that always accompanied the artist during his strolls. These objects are from the collection of Eva Hesse, the granddaughter of the naturalized Swiss artist. The catalogue of the exhibition – which has been staged with the support of the Centro Documentazione Amedeo Modigliani – contains essays by the art critic Gregorio Rossi and the Director of the Hermann Hesse Museum in Montagnola, Regina Bucher.
Hermann Hesse. Watercolours
From 26 March to 15 May 2016
Exhibition Hall of the Hermann Geiger Cultural Foundation
Piazza Guerrazzi 32, Cecina (Livorno)
Opening hours: daily from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.