Part 1 - A ceiling as a problem: the path to Hann Trier

Part of the exhibition "Clashing styles?"

By Charlottenburg Palace

Helmut Börsch-Supan im Weißen Saal von Schloss Charlottenburg (Juni 2020)Charlottenburg Palace

Contemporary wittness report. Only available in German.
00:00

Helmut Börsch-Supan

From 1961 curator and from 1983 to 1995 deputy director of the administration of the State Palaces and Gardens in Berlin.
Click here for the transcription of the original sound.


In the recreation of the White Hall it was possible, prior to dealing with the ceiling painting, for the decoration to be reconstructed on the basis of black-and-white photographs and fragments of the fabric. Because none of the photographs of the room were in colour, however, it was a different matter when it came to the ceiling painting. Furthermore, the ceiling had been reconstructed lower and thus flatter than the original, so that its surface area was smaller. Nevertheless, as justice had at all costs to be done to the ceiling painting’s optical function – to open the room upwards – the Palaces Department entirely ruled out the option of leaving the ceiling white. The decision regarding the ceiling painting was to be made by the Berlin Senator for Scholarship and Art, Werner Stein, who was responsible for the Palaces Department, in coordination with the Berlin Senator for Construction and Housing, Rolf Schwedler, who was the superior of the Berlin head conservationist Kurt Seeleke.

The head conservationist Seeleke’s suggestion of having the ceiling painting done by a contemporary artist was favourably received. For the Palaces Department, however, it was out of the question to ask an artist such as Picasso. They wanted to find an artist who would engage with the Rococo and in particular with Pesne’s characteristic coloration, and who would subordinate himself to the ensemble. And precisely these conditions were fulfilled by the artist Hann Trier.

A German-language text dealing with Hann Trier in greater depth can be found under ‘Vertiefungsebene zum Künstler Hann Trier von Prof. Dr. Christoph Wagner’.

L' Embarquement pour Cythère (Hommage à Watteau) (1958) by Hann TrierCharlottenburg Palace

The eternal charm of the Rococo

Hann Trier between past and present

Prof. Hann Trier bei der Arbeit mit dem Schwamm am Deckenbild im Weißen Saal von Schloss Charlottenburg (1972)Charlottenburg Palace

The eternal charm of the Rococo

Hann Trier working with the sponge on the ceiling painting in the White Hall at Charlottenburg Palace, 1972

Hann Trier was born in 1915 in Kaiserswerth near Düsseldorf. From 1934 to 1938 he studied painting at Düsseldorf Academy of Art. In the Second World War he served as a soldier and at the beginning of the 1950s he lived for an extended period of time in Columbia. Following his return to Germany he was a visiting teacher at the Hochschule für bildende Künste in Hamburg.

Contemporary wittness report. Only available in German.
00:00

Helmut Börsch-Supan

From 1961 curator and from 1983 to 1995 deputy director of the administration of the State Palaces and Gardens in Berlin.
Click here for the transcription of the original sound.

Prof. Hann Trier beidhändig malendCharlottenburg Palace

The eternal charm of the Rococo

Hann Trier painting with two hands

In 1957, Hann Trier was appointed to a professorship at the Hochschule für bildende Künste Berlin, where his students included Georg Baselitz, Peter Klasen and Marwan. In 1962 he married the sociologist Renate Mayntz. From 1967 he painted not only in Berlin but also at his house in Tuscany and from 1972 at his studio in the Eifel region. In 1955, 1959 and 1964 he took part in the Documenta in Kassel.

Die Einschiffung nach Cythera (L' Embarquement pour Cythère) (1718/1719) by Antoine WatteauCharlottenburg Palace

The eternal charm of the Rococo

Antoine Watteau, L'Embarquement pour Cythère, 1718/1719, Oil on canvas, 131 x 193 cm  

Hann Trier repeatedly pursued the creative path of engaging with and reacting to works by artists of past eras. In 1958, in his first work of this kind, he turned his attention to the Rococo, more specifically to Antoine Watteau’s Embarkation for Cythera. The painting was acquired by Frederick II of Prussia in 1764 and has hung at Charlottenburg since 1962.

L' Embarquement pour Cythère (Hommage à Watteau) (1958) by Hann TrierCharlottenburg Palace

The eternal charm of the Rococo

Hann Trier, ‘L'Embarquement pour Cythère’ (Hommage à Watteau), 1958, Oil on canvas, 130 x 162 cm

In Trier’s paraphrase of the Embarkation for Cythera we see the artist engaging with Watteau’s palette of colours, from which he adopts pastel pink, yellow, red and blue. Hann Trier’s art was marked by a move away from the figural. The black grid-like structures were created through simultaneous rhythmic painting with both hands.

Rocaille (1965) by Hann TrierCharlottenburg Palace

The eternal charm of the Rococo

Hann Trier, Rocaille, 1965, egg tempera on canvas, 130 x 162 cm

In 1965, a few years after his artistic tribute to Watteau, Trier turned his attention to the principal ornament of the Rococo, rocaille. Rocaille ornamentation consists of S- and C-shaped scrolls usually combined with seashell motifs. It was in the same year, 1965, that discussions started on the future design for the Rococo ceiling in the White Hall.

Berlin, East Side Gallery (2020)Charlottenburg Palace

In the shadow of the Berlin Wall

The painting of the 1960s in Berlin

Der Gekreuzigte I (1964) by Eugen SchönebeckCharlottenburg Palace

In the shadow of the Berlin Wall

Eugen Schönebeck, The Crucified I
1964 Oil on canvas, 162 cm x 130 cm, Berlinische Galerie

At the beginning of the 1960s, Schönebeck’s drastic depiction of tormented human bodies was a provocation to the art world and general public alike. His images of torture and crucifixion can be seen as allusions to Germany’s calamitous recent past. Young people observed a lack of readiness to face up to the facts of Nazism and the Second World War. Schönebeck and his friend Georg Baselitz were among those who rebelled against the silence of the older generation. In protest, they made ugliness, obscenity and the grotesque into central themes of a new figural art.

K. H. Hödicke, The Great Slaughterer

1963, Synthetic resin on canvas, 180 cm x 290 cm, Berlinische Galerie


Click here to see the picture.



In 1964, Hödicke and other artists founded Berlin’s first cooperative gallery. ‘Großgörschen 35’, as the group was called, became an important platform for the new artistic approaches of a young generation that was getting no response from the city’s established galleries. The first presentation, which featured works by Hödicke, included his triptych The Great Slaughterer.

Studie zum Deckenbild des Weißen Saals im Neuen Flügel von Schloss Charlottenburg (1968) by Hann TrierCharlottenburg Palace

The candidate of choice

Hann Trier and his designs for the ceiling painting

In July 1965, after having weighed up the pros and cons of a reconstruction and a modern solution, the Department of Palaces and the Senate Department for Construction and Housing decided to invite Hann Trier to submit first draft designs for the ceiling. The final decision on commissioning Hann Trier to paint the ceiling was to be made at the future discussion of the designs with the Senators for Scholarship and Art and for Housing and Construction.

Renate Mayntz-Trier in ihrer Kölner Wohnung (2020-08-11)Charlottenburg Palace

Contemporary wittness report. Only available in German.
00:00

Renate Mayntz Trier

Sociologist, founding director of the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies in Cologne in 1985 and widow of Hann Trier.
Click here for the transcription of the original sound.

Berlin, Schloss Charlottenburg, Neuer Flügel, Weißer Saal, Deckengemälde von Antoine Pesne (westliche Hälfte), „Hochzeit des Peleus und der Thetis“ (1742)Charlottenburg Palace

The candidate of choice

Berlin, Charlottenburg Palace, New Wing, White Hall, ceiling painting by Antoine Pesne (eastern half), Marriage of Peleus and Thetis, 1742, state before 1943

Berlin, Schloss Charlottenburg, Neuer Flügel, Weißer Saal, Deckengemälde von Antoine Pesne (östliche Hälfte), „Hochzeit des Peleus und der Thetis“ (1742)Charlottenburg Palace

The candidate of choice

Berlin, Charlottenburg Palace, New Wing, White Hall, ceiling painting by Antoine Pesne (western half), Marriage of Peleus and Thetis, 1742, state before 1943 

In his engagement with the original ceiling painting by Pesne, the only photographs available to Trier were black-and-white, so in order to study the artist’s palette of colours he had take his cues from other paintings by Pesne. At this time there were also discussions about the form to be taken by the recreation of Wilhelm Höder’s painting on the coving, that is, the concave section between the cornice and the ceiling proper.

Studie zum Deckenbild des Weißen Saals im Neuen Flügel von Schloss Charlottenburg (1966) by Hann TrierCharlottenburg Palace

The candidate of choice

Hann Trier, study for the ceiling painting in the White Hall, New Wing, Charlottenburg Palace, 1966, matt paint on paper, mounted on particle board, 75 x 149 cm

Hann Trier adopted the pastel tones from Antoine Pesne’s palette of colours. But in this study one can also roughly perceive the composition of the original painting. The arrangement of the colour areas with Trier’s characteristic structures was oriented approximately around Pesne’s positioning of the figural groups. The white areas, on the other hand, are suggestive of the cloud formations upon which the wedding guests are placed in the Rococo picture.

Studie zum Deckenbild des Weißen Saals im Neuen Flügel von Schloss Charlottenburg (1966) by Hann TrierCharlottenburg Palace

The candidate of choice

Hann Trier, study for the ceiling painting in the White Hall, New Wing, Charlottenburg Palace, 1966, matt paint on paper, mounted on particle board, 77 x 148.3 cm

Studie zum Deckenbild des Weißen Saals im Neuen Flügel von Schloss Charlottenburg (1966) by Hann TrierCharlottenburg Palace

The candidate of choice

Hann Trier, study for the ceiling painting in the White Hall, New Wing, Charlottenburg Palace, 1966, matt paint on paper, mounted on particle board, 73 x 151 cm

In this study, Trier reduced the palette of colours to tones of blue and grey, combined with the white areas similar to clouds. The rib-like structures produced by painting with both hands simultaneously are more pronounced in this study than in the former two.

Studie zum Deckenbild des Weißen Saals im Neuen Flügel von Schloss Charlottenburg (1966) by Hann TrierCharlottenburg Palace

The candidate of choice

Hann Trier, study for the ceiling painting in the White Hall, New Wing, Charlottenburg Palace, 1966, paper, watercolour, body colour, pencil, 56.8 x 73 cm

The first studies for the ceiling painting included not only overall designs but also certain sections executed in detail. This study most likely related to the lower section. The background, which in the sample designs was almost invariably left unpainted, is done in a delicate blueish-green.

Studie zum Deckenbild des Weißen Saals im Neuen Flügel von Schloss Charlottenburg (1966) by Hann TrierCharlottenburg Palace

The candidate of choice

Hann Trier, study for the ceiling painting in the White Hall, New Wing, Charlottenburg Palace, 1966, paper, watercolour, body colour, 35.5 x 23.3 cm

In this study, as previously in the overall designs, Trier put zig-zag fields on the upper edge to suggest the boundary between his ceiling painting and the painting on the coving. This section study shows a detail of the dynamic structures, with – in contrast to the overall designs – a great variety of colours.

Studie zum Deckenbild des Weißen Saals im Neuen Flügel von Schloss Charlottenburg (1968) by Hann TrierCharlottenburg Palace

The candidate of choice

Hann Trier, study for the ceiling painting in the White Hall, New Wing, Charlottenburg Palace, 1968, paper, watercolour, body colour, pencil, 29.4 x 39.7 cm

This detail study is marked ‘for Frau Sperlich’ and was a gift to Cornelia Sperlich, whose husband, Martin Sperlich, was from 1969 to 1984 Margarete Kühn’s successor as director of the Department of State Palaces and Gardens Berlin. From the very beginning he was a great advocate of a contemporary solution for the ceiling painting.

Studie zum Deckenbild des Weißen Saals im Neuen Flügel von Schloss Charlottenburg (1968) by Hann TrierCharlottenburg Palace

The candidate of choice

Hann Trier, study for the ceiling painting in the White Hall, New Wing, Charlottenburg Palace, 1968, matt paint on paper, mounted on particle board, 152.6 x 299.5 cm

The decision-making process concerning the ceiling painting in the White Hall went on and on. Hann Trier continued to work on his designs. Although consideration had initially been given to Trier also painting the surround, in 1968 it was decided to have this done as a reconstruction by Herbert Sommerfeld. In the later studies, Trier thus only sketched in the outlines of the original painting on the coving.

Berlin, Schloss Charlottenburg, Neuer Flügel, Weißer Saal, Deckengemälde von Antoine Pesne (westliche Hälfte), „Hochzeit des Peleus und der Thetis“ (1742)Charlottenburg Palace

The candidate of choice

Berlin, Charlottenburg Palace, New Wing, White Hall, section showing the painting on the coving by Wilhelm Höder and on the ceiling by Antoine Pesne, 1742, state before 1943

The original coving – that is to say, the concave section between the cornice and the ceiling proper – had been painted in the eighteenth century by Wilhelm Höder. The cartouches show four figural scenes featuring Demeter, Dionysos, Aphrodite and one other. The scene on the south side, for example, showed Aphrodite in a shell carriage drawn by lions, accompanied by Pan and by Eros bearing a torch.

Studie zur Kartusche „A“ der Voutenmalerei (1971) by Hann TrierCharlottenburg Palace

The candidate of choice

Hann Trier, study for cartouche ‘A’ on the coving, 1971–1972, body colour on paper, 98 x 130.5 cm

Hann Trier also made studies for the four cartouches left blank by Herbert Sommerfeld.

Studie zur Kartusche „G“ der Voutenmalerei (1971) by Hann TrierCharlottenburg Palace

The candidate of choice

Hann Trier, study for cartouche ‘G’ on the coving, 1971–1972, body colour on paper, 97.5 x 130 cm

The size of the surround with its cartouches remained the same as it had been before 1943. However, as the reconstructed vault was flatter than the original, the surface area available for the central field was significantly smaller than on the Rococo ceiling.

Studie zum Deckenbild des Weißen Saals im Neuen Flügel von Schloss Charlottenburg nach Antoine Pesne, Hochzeitsmahl des Peleus und der Thetis (1966) by Carl TimnerCharlottenburg Palace

First counter-proposal

Carl Timner and the desire for the figural

The issuing of a commission to Hann Trier was delayed by a complaint made by the Berlin head conservationist Kurt Seeleke, who had not been involved in the decision of July 1965. Now Seeleke once again called for a reconstruction of the painting by Pesne, which he considered possible and necessary in the circumstances. As a result, the Berlin contemporary realist Carl Timner was requested to submit a scale design for a reconstruction of the original ceiling painting.

Rheinsberg, Schloss, Spiegelsaal, Deckengemälde, „Apoll vertreibt die Finsternis“ (1740) by Antoine PesneCharlottenburg Palace

First counter-proposal

Rheinsberg Palace, Hall of Mirrors, ceiling painting by Antoine Pesne, Apollo Driving out Darkness, 1740, state in 2019

A few years before painting the ceiling of the White Hall at Charlottenburg, Pesne had done this ceiling painting at the palace of Rheinsberg. The subject was chosen in allusion to Frederick II’s accession to the throne in 1740: in an image of the new king laying the ground for the flourishing of the arts in Prussia, darkness is driven out by Apollo, god of the arts, and by the rays of sun emanating from his chariot.

Kopie vom Deckenbild des Spiegelsaals im Schloss Rheinsberg, Apoll vertreibt die Finsternis (1966) by Carl TimnerCharlottenburg Palace

First counter-proposal

Carl Timner, copy of Antoine Pesne’s ceiling painting in the Hall of Mirrors at Rheinsberg Palace, Apollo Driving out Darkness, 1966

Before making his design for the White Hall, Carl Timner crossed to the GDR to look at Antoine Pesne’s ceiling painting at Rheinsberg and most especially to study Pesne’s choice of colours. However, in his oil sketch Timner failed to capture Pesne’s coloration.

Contemporary wittness report. Only available in German.
00:00

Adrian von Buttlar

Art historian. The painter Carl Timner was a friend of the family.

Click here for the transcription of the original sound.

Studie zum Deckenbild des Weißen Saals im Neuen Flügel von Schloss Charlottenburg nach Antoine Pesne, Hochzeitsmahl des Peleus und der Thetis (1966) by Carl TimnerCharlottenburg Palace

First counter-proposal

Carl Timner, study for the ceiling painting in the White Hall, New Wing, Charlottenburg Palace, after Antoine Pesne, Marriage of Peleus and Thetis, 1966, oil on canvas, 100 x 110 cm

Timner’s design for the ceiling painting in the White Hall at Charlottenburg was adjudged to be unsatisfactory in quality. Although the Berlin head conservationist Kurt Seeleke was also of this opinion, he held to his conviction that a reconstruction was possible and continued to try to get this solution approved – and no decision was made.

Berlin, Schloss Charlottenburg, Neuer Flügel, Weißer Saal, Deckengemälde von Antoine Pesne, „Hochzeit des Peleus und der Thetis“ (1742) by Antoine PesneCharlottenburg Palace

First counter-proposal

Berlin, Charlottenburg Palace, New Wing, White Hall, ceiling painting by Antoine Pesne, Marriage of Peleus and Thetis, 1742, state before 1943

Berlin, Schloss Charlottenburg, Neuer Flügel, Weißer Saal, Präsentation von Entwürfen und Studien zum Deckenbild von Hann Trier (1967)Charlottenburg Palace

First counter-proposal

Berlin, Charlottenburg Palace, New Wing, White Hall, presentation of Hann Trier’s designs and studies for the ceiling painting, November 1967

In 1967 the decision-makers met once again in the White Hall. While Senator Stein maintained the view of the Department of Palaces that Hann Trier should be given the commission, Senator Schwedler supported his colleague Seeleke in his demand for a reconstruction. They finally decided that, once again, commissions to submit an overall design should be issued to Trier and to an artist with experience in reconstruction.

Probestück für das Deckenbild des Weißen Saals im Neuen Flügel von Schloss Charlottenburg (1970) by Karl ManningerCharlottenburg Palace

Second counter-proposal

Karl Manninger and the argument of experience

In order to get a better idea of reconstructed ceiling paintings, the Berlin Senate’s director of construction, Hans Müller, went on a tour of southern Germany. In particular, it was the ceiling painting over the staircase in the New Palace at Bruchsal that convinced him of the feasibility of a reconstruction. It had been painted by the Bavarian artist Karl Manninger, who had experience in reconstructing Baroque ceiling paintings. For these reasons, Manninger was first invited to submit a scale design and later, as was Trier, a full-scale design.

Studie zum Deckenbild des Weißen Saals im Neuen Flügel von Schloss Charlottenburg nach Antoine Pesne (1968) by Karl ManningerCharlottenburg Palace

Second counter-proposal

Karl Manninger, study for the ceiling painting in the White Hall, New Wing, Charlottenburg Palace, after Antoine Pesne, Marriage of Peleus and Thetis, 1968, oil on canvas, 85 x 160,5 cm

Manninger’s scale design, by contrast with Timner’s, displays important similarities to Pesne’s ceiling paintings, both in the figures and in the coloration. For the Department of Palaces, however, it was not of a high enough quality to approximate to the original and was considered an insufficient basis for a reconstruction. The Berlin head conservationist Seeleke, on the other hand, was of the opinion that Manninger would deliver a satisfactory end result.

Contemporary wittness report. Only available in German.
00:00

Helmut Börsch-Supan

From 1961 curator and from 1983 to 1995 deputy director of the administration of the State Palaces and Gardens in Berlin.
Click here for the transcription of the original sound.

Bruchsal, Neues Schloss, Treppenhaus, Deckengemälde von Karl Manninger nach Johannes Zick, Geschichte des Bistums Speyer (1965-1967)Charlottenburg Palace

Second counter-proposal

Bruchsal, New Palace, staircase, ceiling painting by Karl Manninger after Johannes Zick, History of the Bishopric of Speyer, 1965–1967, state in 2002

When Manninger was asked for a design for the White Hall, he had just completed a reconstruction of the painting over the staircase at Bruchsal. A commission had selected him for the task in 1962, after he had reconstructed the ceiling painting of the Aeneas Gallery at the New Palace in Stuttgart. For the Bruchsal reconstruction he worked from a colour photograph of the lost painting.

Credits: Story

A ceiling as a problem: the path to Hann Trier

Project management: Samuel Wittwer
Concept and realisation: Jule Sophie Christ
Assistance: Florian Dölle

Text: Jule Sophie Christ / Berlinische Galerie

Translation: Sophie Kidd and John Nicholson, Vienna
Special thanks to Kunststiftung Hann Trier and Berlinische Galerie.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Google apps