Breaking up and making up

When I think of the relationship between Russia and Germany the first thing that comes to mind is Carrie and Mr Big or maybe Ross and Rachel for those of you that never dug into Sex and the City – in which case, shame on you. The on-again, off-again saga of their affairs is almost too much for the common person to handle.

They’re on – they’re politicking together and mutually militaristic; Russia is sharing her energy sources because of her dependence on Germany’s finances. If that’s not a relationship, I don’t know what is! And then Leo von Caprivi had to go and cut Russia out, ruining the three-way alliance with Austria. Certainly, they were on a break!

 

Albrect Dürer, Portrait of a Young Woman, 1505.
Oil on wood, 26 x 35 cm.
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.

 

They’re off – they’re warring against each other in WWI, ending with Germany helping to send in the dogs – rather Vladimir Lenin.

Shortly thereafter, they are back on due to social stigmatisation from the rest of the world, which is quickly ruined with Germany’s anti-Communist, anti-Slav rhetoric and Hitler’s invasion of the Eastern Front – leading to the bloodiest conflict in history. I think we can all agree Germany wasn’t the nicest kid on the block during this time.

 

Max Beckmann, Self-Portrait with a Scarf, 1917.
Oil on canvas, 80 x 60 cm.
Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, Stuttgart.

 

Slowly the two realised they had more in common than not after the fall of the Wall and Socialism. They’ve managed to remain amicable over the past 30 years – not discussing their differences, but revelling in their similarities.

It is in their similarities that we are able to see marks of Russia in Germany’s art, history, and culture, and vice-versa. Positive spurts and splashes of colour and light, sound and beauty, harmony between the two cultures. And isn’t that all the world needs right now? Harmony amongst the masses, a sharing of art and culture?

Go see Russians & Germans. 1000 Years of Art, History and Culture, on at the Neues Museum, now through 13 January 2012, for the nuances of the tumultuous millennium-long love affair between these two fascinating countries. Also, keep an eye out for German Painting by Franz Dülberg for even better insight into their artistic relations.

 

-Le Lorrain Andrews

 

 

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