Art and War and Atonement
By Jheri St. James
“The Kiss” by Gustav Klimt
choices are important and acquire historical importance.If Klimt’s painting above was titled “the Handshake”, for instance, there would be head-shaking, because the handshake omits the passion, the intensity of the artist’s moment.But in the following four reference paragraphs, never once are the words “war,” “death”, “killing”, “massacre”, “genocide” or even “soldiers” used.The mild terminology used to describe the history of
Austria—like most of the countries in our Common Ground 191 online journal—is, however, replete with those activities, results, and people.History teachers often say that, “history is written by the victors”, and in this case, the victorious writers have used words like “settled”, “acquired”, “annexation”, “weakened” and “grew”—a point worth contemplating in the context of Common Ground
191—a project emerging out of the definitions and dualities of art and war.
Inhabited from prehistoric times, settled by the Celts,
and subsequently part of the Roman Empire, starting in
the third century A.D. Austria was devastated by invading
Vandals, Goths, Alemanni, Huns, and Avars.In 788 Charlemagne conquered Austria.The Babenberg family inherited it in 976 and retained it as duchy until 1246.In 1247 the Habsburgs acquired Austria, which became a central part of their empire until 1918.The Treaty of Versailles created independent states (Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Yugoslavia) from the old
empire, while Austria itself became a republic. In 1938,Austriawas annexed by Hitler’s Third Reich, regaining independence following the Allied victory in 1945” (Webster’s International Encyclopedia.
Carved Wooden Tombstone
the center of power for the large Austro-Hungarian Empire,
Austria was reduced to a small republic after its defeat in
World War I. Austria’s
status remained unclear for a decade from 1945 until a State
Treaty signed in 1955 ended the Nazi occupation, recognized
Austria’s independence, and forbade unification with Germany.
A constitutional law that same year declared the country’s
“perpetual neutrality” as a condition for Soviet military
the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991 and Austria’s entry into
the European Union in 1995, some Austrians have called into
question this neutrality.
A prosperous, democratic country, Austria entered
the Economic and Monetary Union in 1999 (CIA World Factbook).
St. Stephen’s Cathedral Roof, Vienna
Holy Roman Empire – European empire centered in Germany that endured from medieval times until 1806.It was effectively established in A.D. 962
when the pope crowned Otto I, king of Germany, emperor of Rome.It derived its political claim to the Roman Empire based on Charlemagne’s belief that his empire was
the legitimate successor to ancient Rome.In theory, the Holy Roman emperor was God’s temporal
ruler of all Christians. In reality, the political control was somewhat
different.At its height, it included all the German principalities, Austria, Bohemia, Moravia, Switzerland, the Low Countries, eastern France, and northern and central Italy. Until 1562, the emperor was crowned by the
pope; thereafter the coronation was performed in Frankfurt.The Holy Roman Empire was in constant conflict with the pope and the Italian states over temporal and religious issues.It was seriously weakened by the Reformation, which challenged
the allegiance of German Protestant princes to the emperor.
The Thirty Years War (1618-1648) almost totally destroyed the German people and the Holy Roman Empire.
In fact, it never recovered from this conflict. France emerged as a central power from the war
and its continued military successes, from the time of
Louis XIV to Napoleon I, eradicated the political reality
of the Holy Roman emperor. The official end came in 1806 when Francis II renounced the title, proclaiming himself Francis I, emperor of Austria. (Webster’s
Crypt in Vienna, Burial Site of 138 Members of House
of Habsburg – European family from which
came rulers of Austria (1282-1918), the Holy Roman Empire
(1438-1806), Spain (1516-1700), Germany, Hungary, Bohemia,
and other countries. Count Rudolf IV, who was crowned King Rudolf
I of Germany in 1273, founded the imperial line. Thereafter Habsburg (also spelled Hapsburg) power and hereditary
lands grew until, under Charles V, they included most
of Europe (excepting France, Scandinavia, Portugal, and
Charles, the Habsburgs were divided into Spanish and imperial
lines. When the
Spanish line died out, Charles V‘s granddaughter, Maria
Theresa, gained the Austrian title. Her husband, Francis I (Duke of Lorraine),
became Holy Roman Emperor (1745), and the Habsburg-Lorraine
line ruled the Holy Roman Empire until its demise.
The last Habsburg ruler, Charles I, emperor of
Austria and king of Hungary, abdicated
in 1918, after World War I. (Webster’s International Encyclopedia)
Carving in Austria
and war—paintings, wood carving, architecture, sculpture all
used in the previous photos to express man’s deep grief and
losses of life in this most miserable of all human activities. Austria has not been exempt from this sturm
and drang known to all mankind; Austria has been the stage
upon which many momentous historical events have been played
out. Located in Central Europe, north of Italy and Slovenia and bordered
by Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Liechtenstein,
Slovakia, Slovenia and Switzerland, this is a coveted medium-sized
country that would add good real estate to any of its neighbors’
territories. Mountainous in the west and south, along the
eastern and northern margins Austria is mostly flat or gently
sloping. Landlocked, it is a strategic location at the
crossroads of central Europe with many easily traversable
Alpine passes and valleys.
The major river is the beautiful blue Danube.
The population is concentrated on the eastern lowlands
because of steep slopes, poor soil and low temperatures elsewhere.
Vienna is Austria’s capital city.
its well-developed market economy and high standard of living,
Austria is closely tied to other EU economies, especially
Germany’s. The economy features up-to-date industrial and
agricultural sectors. Timber is a key industry, 47% of the
land area being forested. Membership in the EU has drawn
an influx of foreign investors attracted by Austria’s access
to the single European market and proximity to the new EU
economies. Slow growth in Europe has held the economy to
0.7%% growth in 20012, 1.4% in 2002, 0.8% in 2003, and 1.9%
in 2004 and 2005. To meet increased competition from both
EU and Central European countries, particularly the new EU
members, Austria will need to emphasize knowledge-based sectors
of the economy, continue to deregulate the service sector,
and encourage much greater participation in the labor market
by its aging population. The aging phenomenon, together with
already high health and pension costs, poses fundamental problems
in tax and welfare policies. Some important locations in
Krimmler Ache, flows through a narrow wooded valley, plunging
down 380m/1,250ft in three tremendous cascades. To the south
of the Gerlos pass, which links the Ziller valley in Tirol
with the Salzach valley in Salzburg, the excursion to see
these falls, the grandest in the Eastern Alps, takes three
hours. The nearby village of Krimml is a popular holiday resort,
and in winter the Gerlosplatte offers excellent skiing.
Mural Art in Graz
capital of Styria and Austria's second largest town, Graz
is the economic and commercial focus of the whole region.
It lies on the River Mur, which here emerges from a narrow
defile to enter the fertile basin known as the Grazer Feld.
Above the town is a prominent hill, the Schlossberg. Graz,
the seat of the provincial government and a major industrial
town, has a University, a Technical College, various institutes
and an Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. Its tourist attractions
include many historic old buildings; these and the old town
with numerous Baroque facades are of great interest. Excavation
has shown that there were settlements here as early as 800
A.D., but the town is first mentioned in the records in 1128.
The name comes from the Slavonic "gradec" (small
castle). Graz was of some consequence in trading under the
Traungau family and later under the Babenbergs. In 1233 it
passed into the hands of the Habsburgs, and in 1281 King Rudolf
I granted the town special privileges. From 1379-1619 Graz
was the residence of the Leopoldine branch of the Habsburgs.
As a stronghold of the Habsburg Empire against attack from
the East, the town was strongly fortified in the 15th-17th
centuries and several times withstood sieges by the Turks.
The architecture of the town was influenced by Italian models;
among the fine buildings erected during this period was the
sumptuous palace of Prince Hans Ulrich von Eggenberg. In the
19th century Graz became an important cultural magnet. The
Habsburg period came to an end in 1918. In 1938 the city reached
its present extent with the incorporation of a number of adjoining
communes. It suffered considerable damage during the Second
World War but this was subsequently repaired.
Art of the Mural in Graz
of Linz, on the southern bank of the Danube, stands the little
town of Wilhering. The Cistercian abbey here was founded in
1146 and rebuilt in the 18th C. after a fire. The
art gallery contains sketches and drawings by Austrian Baroque
painters. The church, bathed in light, has a Roccoco interior
which is one of the finest examples of this style in Austria.
There are attractive frescos by B. Altomonte (including the
Glorification of the Mother of God) and fine choir stalls
and wall graves.
20 meter Baroque Pillar of the Holy Trinity was completed
in 1723. The column was made by Sebastian Stumpfegger, based
on a model by Antonio Beducci. The marble structure is topped
with a gold-colored sculpture of the Holy Trinity. There are
also three inscriptions from the provincial estates, the city
council and the residents of Linz, in appreciation of their
escape from war, fire and the plague.
St Peter's Church was built in 1130-43, altered in 1605-25
and decorated in Roccoco style between 1757 and 1783. The
helm tower also dates from the latter period. Inside the porch
under the tower is the Romanesque west doorway (c.
1240), with sculpture in the tympanum; the Roccoco door dates
from 1765. The interior, in which the plan of the Romanesque
basilica can still be detected, contains many monuments of
great interest. In the third chapel behind the altar is the
rock-hewn tomb of St Rupert, with an epitaph of 1444, and
in the fourth chapel will be found the monuments of Mozart's
sister Marianne ("Nannerl"), who died in 1829 as
Baroness Berchtold zu Sonnenburg, and of J. M. Haydn, the
brother of Joseph. By the choir screen stand two bronze candelabra
of 1609. All but two of the altarpieces on the 16 marble altars
were painted by Martin Johann Schmidt of Krems, known as "Kremser
Schmidt" (1718-1801). The Lady Chapel (Marienkapelle;
not open to the public) of 1319 on the northern side of the
church contains a stone figure of the Virgin dating from the
same period as the chapel, Early Gothic frescos and later
frescos of 1755.
All these expressions of the heavenly realm point to our soil
collector in Austria, who was Taya Albolena Lila of Ljubljana,
Slovenia, who contacted an Austrian friend, Suzana, who brought
some anonymous Austrian soil to her for shipment to Common
Ground 191. Ms. Lila, a Doreen Virtue Angel Therapy student,
has so far contributed soil of three countries to our project,
and we are so appreciative of this clearly angelic intervention.
Thank you, Doreen and Taya.
the year of this writing, Austria celebrates the 250th birthday
of its most famous classical musical composer, Wolfgang Amadeus
Mozart (1756-1791) who said, “When I am . . . traveling
in a carriage, or walking after a good meal, or during the
night when I cannot sleep; it is on such occasions that ideas
flow best and most abundantly.” Born in Salzburg, Mozart
is considered one of the greatest musical geniuses of all
time, authoring over 600 works before his premature death
The son of orchestra leader Leopold Mozart, Wolfgang showed
remarkable musical aptitude early in life. He was playing
the harpsichord by the age of four, composing at five, and
performed his first recital at age 6 for the Empress of Austria.
Recognizing his enormous talent, his father devoted most of
his time to his son's musical education, and taking him on
concert tours throughout Europe.
Mozart left Salzburg in 1781 to seek his fortune in Vienna.
He married there in 1782. Mozart made his living performing
and selling his compositions and giving music lessons. No
longer a child prodigy, he had difficulty earning sufficient
income to support a family. He died in poverty in 1791. Mozart
excelled at nearly every kind of musical composition. He wrote
22 operas, over 40 symphonies, and composed a great amount
of church and chamber music. Much of Mozart's work is still
performed and enjoyed today.
the city of his birth, is hoping to cash in on Mozart’s
birthday with a mixture of kitsch and high culture. A local
dairy has developed a new Mozart yogurt, and one can buy Mozart
sausage, Mozart baby bottles and Mozart perfume. Kurt Palm,
author of a new book about Mozart said, “If Mozart could
see what happens now only in Austria, in Vienna or Salzburg
this year, he would either laugh about it or he would be disgusted.”
This summer there will be a chance to see every opera that
Mozart wrote, all 22, rather than the five or six normally
Another revered artist from Austria was Gustav Klimt, born
July 14, 1682, in Baumgarten, near Vienna, the second of 11
children. He was educated at the Vienna School of Arts and
Crafts and received training as an architectural decorator.
He began his professional career painting interior murals
in large public buildings. His work is distinguished by an
elegant use of gold backgrounds and mosaic patterns. Art historians
note an eclectic range of influences contributing to Klimt’s
distinct style, including Egyptian, Minoan, Classical Greek,
and Byzantine inspirations. His works are also characterized
by a rejection of earlier naturalistic styles and the use
of symbols or symbolic elements to convey psychological ideas
and emphasize the freedom of art from traditional culture.
He died in Vienna on February 6, 1918 of a stroke.
Current events in Austria include a U.S. woman who recently
won a legal battle for five Klimt paintings that the Nazis
stole from her family valued at 150 million dollars. Maria
Altmann, the heir of the family who owned them before the
Nazis “annexed” Austria in 1938, said, “Frankly,
I had a very good feeling the last few days. I had a very
positive feeling thinking things will go all right,”
said Altmann. “I’m thrilled that it came to this
end.” Though the court’s ruling is nonbonding,
both parties have previously said they will abide by it, and
Austria’s government is expected to give up the works
of art that have been displayed for decades in Vienna’s
ornate Belvedere castle.
That will represent the costliest concession since Austria
began returning valuable art objects looted by the Nazis.
The case stemmed from a 1998 Austrian law that required federal
museums to review their holdings for any works seized by the
Nazis and determine whether they were obtained without remuneration.
Lawyers for the two sides have fought since 1998 over rights
to the famed portrait of “Adele Bloch-Bauer I”;
a lesser-known Bloch-Bauer portrait; “Apple Tree”;
“Beech Forest/Birch Forest”; and “Houses
in Unterach on Attersee Lake”. After Bloch-Bauer died,
the five pictures remained in her family’s possession.
Her husband fled to Switzerland after the Nazis took over
Audstria. The pictures were taken by the Nazis and the Austrian
Gallery was made the former owner.
A fairly recent development in the history of mankind’s
warring activities is this kind of atonement – at-one-ment
– for past sins (errors). The Common Ground 191 project
is an act of at-one-ment, bringing the soils of the world
together in one place, on one 50’ x 50’ fresco,
as a symbolic, wordless, global unity. The importance of acts
of reparation like the return of the Klimt paintings cannot
be taken too far in symbolic importance—Roget’s
Thesaurus even refers to “Christly functions”
as one of the synonyms of the word “atonement”,
resulting in salvation and redemption. With its long history
of culture, music, painting, and spectacular Baroque and Rococo
church interiors, Austria obviously has evolved a high level
of refined spiritual and artistic sensibility, and is now
willing to act upon that on a global level. The soil of Austria
is an important evolutionary addition to the Common Ground
191 unification project. The word for peace in Austria is