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Call of the forest: Exhibition presents trees and forests in the Würth Collection
A room of the art museum owned by the globally-operating Wurth Group, led by German Reinhold Wurth, in Erstein, eastern France. AFP PHOTO/FREDERICK FLORIN.

ERSTEIN.- The Musée Würth France Erstein is presenting the exhibition “The Call of the Forest. Trees and forests in the Würth Collection”.

The idea for an exhibition based around the theme of the forest first came to collector Reinhold Würth about ten years ago. The exhibition was first shown at the Kunsthalle Würth in Schwäbisch Hall in 2011, the international year of forests, and has now been adapted for presentation at the Musée Würth in Erstein. For artists, the forest, and more broadly nature, is an ideal terrain into which to project fantasies, fears and hopes.

As a reflection of their culture, their history and the society contemporary to them, it constitutes a “mirror subject” for humanity, according to the art historian Fabrice Hergott. A place of danger, evil, ordeals and adventures, but also a refuge offering protection and peace in Antiquity, the forest soon became the backdrop for fairy tales inhabited by witches, ogres and other fantastic creatures embodying human violence.

The Romantics of the 19th century, meanwhile, created a genuine aesthetic of the forest, and their phantasmagorical, desperate vision still colours our current image of it, as a place charged with poetry and a great meditative value. After the phenomenon of Waldsterben (decline or death of the forest) entered our consciousness in the 20th century, the taste for the forest evolved: in an essentially urban, ordered, controlled world, people were attracted more by the idea of urban regeneration than the wild aspect.

It became a part of the setting for urban life. The dark, obscure, menacing forest gave way to a promise of a more essential life and a return to original harmony. The vision of the forest also varies according to different cultures: the Anglo-Saxon conception of nature, often represented in the naïve form of a garden, stands in opposition to the Germanic view of forests as icons of the nation, darker places marked by history. Today, these criteria tend to blur: the vision of the forest is more universal, more globalised, as it becomes a key to survival, a space to be preserved, an ideal of non-urbanised life.

The Würth collection possesses a vast and unique body of works exploring the theme of the forest, and a broad selection is being presented at the Musée Würth France Erstein. From Ernst Ludwig Kirchner to David Hockney, by way of Alfred Sisley, Georg Baselitz, Max Ernst, Gerhard Richter and Christo, the exhibition explores the diverse aspects of the representation of the forest in the history of modern and contemporary art.

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