As we finished the morning schedule and we almost skipped lunch, we realized that we have time for a visit – even shorter than we would have wished – to the most important museum in Schaffhausen – Museum zu Allerheiligen (All Saints Museum). So we walked back to the Munsterplatz were we had started the morning tour and we entered the museum whose entrance is located near the Munster. Actually part of the exhibition halls are hosted by the old rooms of the Benedictine Monastery once located near the cathedral.
Museum zu Allerheiligen
Switzerland has fine museums in general, and Museum zu Allerheiligen is one of them. A little bit eclectic in conception, it combines archeology, history, art, and natural sciences in the same institution. The museum was founded in the first half of the past century bringing together collections or art and historical objects related to the history of the region. It is vast and orientation is not very easy, especially if you are not a German speaker, as there is little material in other languages than German. As we had little time at hand we focused our visit to the arts section.
Hanni Bay - Landschaft im Oberaargau
We started at the upper floor where the art section was in part occupied by an exhibition that promised to be interesting. Switzerland without Switzerland (open until September 26) gathers especially landscapes painted by Swiss artists, avoiding intentionally the routine postcard landscape of the Alps, in a successful tentative to demonstrate that the Swiss landscape and the art inspired by it are much more diversified and interesting than what the usual representation offers. There are many interesting works in this exhibition, and I have written about some in the episode about the Rhine falls. Another beautiful piece by a local artist is Hanni Bay’s landscape in a pointillist style, with combining the strong fauvist colors with the dramatic lines of the trees in winter.
Otto Dix - Blick gegen Stein am Rhein
Although the order of presentation is not chronological but rather thematic, the painting above drew my attention as slightly out of the stylistic context – a Flemish master painting a Swiss landscape? Then I looked at the name of the author and I realized that I was looking at one of the landscapes painted by Otto Dix in classical style during the time he spent in Switzerland. Marked as a hostile to the Nazi regime because of his anti-war art and of the anti-Hitler works at the beginning of the 30s, his paintings included in the ‘degenerated art’ exhibitions, Dix took refuge in Switzerland in 1936, and spent part of the war period here, returning however to Germany in the middle of the war, being drafted in the late agonizing war efforts of the Nazis and falling prisoner in the final days of the war.
Otto Dix - Vier Masken, 1948
I have met here again one of my old friends and preferred painters. I had seen the retrospective of Dix’s works at the Neue Galerie in New York a few months ago and written about it. Dix must have kept a strong connection with Switzerland and especially with Schaffhausen. During my visit in the museum I have seen a few more works of his, each representative to another period of his creation. Vier Masken (The Four Masks) is a late work, dated 1948, a tragic clownish composition with Ensor-esque allusions.
Otto Dix - Billardspieler, 1914
The Billardspieler (The Billiard Player) is a much earlier work. Dix may have taken earlier works with him from Germany and sold them in Switzerland in order to subsist during these years.
Otto Dix - Sterbender Krieger, 1915
Close in style but belonging to a completely different space as a theme the painting above from 1915 already deals with the theme of the war. It must have been painted shortly before or soon after Dix was enrolled in the German army in the first world war. The terrible experience he went through in the next few years changed his conceptions and approach to life and art as well.
master from Schaffhausen - Crucification, 1449
As I have departed from the order of our visit, let me try to describe a few more of the remarkable pieces of work I saw in the museum. There are many more that make a longer and more structured visit worth. One rich section deals with religious art, and one of the amazing exhibits is a mid-15th century Renaissance composition of the Crucification, a painting of large dimensions with a complex and diversified combination of landscape and dramatic characters.
compared original and restored frescoes from 'zu Ritter' house
Also here can be found the original frescoes taken from the zu Ritter house during the last century in order to preserve and save them from the aggressions of time and weather.
glass work from the St Georg church in Stein am Rhein
Beautiful glass work was taken from the St George church in Stein am Rhein. We could not visit the church the previous day, as we arrived too late in Stein am Rhein, so had some little compensation by admiring it here in the museum.
late Gothic altar
In the same category of religious art we can find in the Museum zu Allerheiligen several beautiful altars, sometimes combining painting and sculpture. The one I liked more is rather recent (19th century) in late Gothic style combining a relief representation of the Holy Virgin in the center and representation of saints on the side panels.
Cranach - Das Silberne Zeitalter
Back to the art sections I could admire a few splendid works by Lucas Cranach the Elder. Here is the complex and refined representation of the Silver Old Age …
Cranach - Maria mit Kind und Traube
… and the delicate figure of Mary and the Child.
Tobias Stimmer's self-portrait
As in any visit in a foreign museum I looked for remarkable local art, which I cannot find and understand better than in that respective place. The museum in Schaffhausen has plenty of it, and let me start with a self-portrait of Tobias Stimmer born in Schaffhausen in 1539 and deceased in Strasbourg in 1584. We were going to meet his work a few days later, as some of his most famous paintings decorate the astronomical clock in the cathedral of Strasbourg. Here is a beautiful self-portrait, with a skeptical and mistrusting look enhanced by the inclination of the head and the stare that go in diagonal and divergent directions.
Johan Heinrich Fussli - Robin Goodfellow-Puck
Johan Heinrich Fussli is a Swiss artist from the 18-19th century. Born in Zurich he lived much of his life in London (known there as Henry Fuseli), where he illustrated works of Shakespeare, Milton, Homer, Dante and other. The combination of Shakespeare’s Puck and of the popular English character Robin Goodfellow combines the late Baroque style with memorable character representation. We seem to be advised to stay away from this quite malefic spirit.
Ferdinand Hodler - selfportrait with roses
Closer to the modern period we meet Ferdinand Hodler, one of the most famous Swiss painters in the second half of the 19th and start of the 2oth century, an artist who assimilated quickly the techniques brought up by the accelerated evolution of art in the decades of his life and creation, but brought them up into a personal manner, with a balance that I cannot characterize it better than … well … Swiss. Here is one of his best known self-portraits.
Valloton - Femme nue ettendue sur un drap blanc
The last artist I will talk about is Felix Valloton – French speaking Swiss artist, who created much of his art in the French cultural space, being associated with the Nabis movement, working as a painter, print-maker, and collage artist. The beautiful nude above belongs to a genre which generated several masterpieces in the history of art, to mention just Velasquez, Goya and Manet. It’s a beautiful ending to a visit in a museum where I hope to be back sometime, with more time at hand.