Fred Stein Photographer

While we were visiting the Jewish Museum, one of the exhibitions showing in the “voids” was dedicated to the works of Fred Stein, a Jewish photographer who was born in Dresden in July 1909. The son of a rabbi and a teacher, he was an active socialist, a member of the Marxist Socialist Workers’ Party of Germany (SAP). He studied law, but with the rise of the Nazis he was forced out of his job in the State Prosecutor’s Office and forbidden from completing his studies for a PhD. He fled to Paris with his wife, Lilo, where, unable to practice law he started photographing the City with a Leica camera and soon became established as a photographer.

When the Germans invaded France he was captured and interned, but he escaped and, with Lilo and their young daughter, managed to flee via Marsaille to New York, securing passage on one of the last ships to leave France for on “danger visas.” Settling in the city, he carried on photographing street scenes and worked for photo agencies, his pictures appearing in papers and journals such as the New York Times and Time magazine. He obtained American citizenship in 1952

The exhibition featured 130 black-and-white photographs covering his time in both Paris and New York.

He was a talented “Street photographer” producing some cleverly composed images of both Paris and New York.
I like how he has captured these interesting patterns created by water rubbing of the pavement of a deserted street in Paris.
He had a talent for composition. I like the way he’s used the curving bridge to frame the buildings
He included people in his photographs. A clever use of a silhouette and reflections in this photgraph.
In later life, when it was more difficult for him to get out and about, he turned to portrait photography, persuading a wide range of celebrities, artists and intellectuals to pose for him.
This subject needs no introduction.
An excellent exhibition with some really interesting photographs that we were lucky enough to stumble upon by chance.

Fred Stein Fine Cut from Imaginary Media Artists on Vimeo.


Rosa Luxemburg Platz

Rsa Luxemburg Platz stands at the top of Rosa Luxemburg Strasse, in Mitte, Berlin, close to Alexanderplatz. The street and square are both named after the Socialist thinker and activist, born in Poland, who became a leader in the German Social Democratic Party (then a Marxist organisation) before the First World War. She was ostracised by the SPD and imprisoned when she opposed the war. Reluctanly drawn into supporting the Spartakist Uprising in 1919 during the revolutionary turmoil that followed the German defeat, she was murdered along with Karl Liebknecht by the Freikorps, a right-wing paramilitary group mainly made up of World War I veterans.

Quotations from her works are engraved into the pavement in the square and the nearby streets.

Although her political ideas were certainly not consistent with those of the Stalinists who were in charge of the German Democratic Republic, they named the street and square in her honour – an attempt to claim some legitimacy. But Rosa would have been appalled by their policies and methods.

    Freedom only for the supporters of the government, only for the members of a party – however numerous they may be – is no freedom at all. Freedom is always the freedom of the dissenter. Not because of the fanaticism of “justice”, but rather because all that is instructive, wholesome, and purifying in political freedom depends on this essential characteristic, and its effects cease to work when “freedom” becomes a privilege. (Die russische Revolution. Eine kritische Würdigung, Berlin 1920 S. 109; Rosa Luxemburg)

    The square itself is dominated by the Volksbühne theatre. A large, grand neo-Classical building completed in 1914. To me it had a Modernist look about it with it's relatively simple form.
    The origin of the theatre was an organization known as the “Freie Volksbühne” (“Free People's Theater”) formed in 1892 to promote naturalist plays at prices accessible to workers. It was a cultural society and membership subscriptions were used to fund theatre productions which could be attended by the members of the club at a reduced rate. The society allowed workers – organised and led by the Social Democrats – to gain access to and participate in Berlin’s cultural life. The slogan “Die Kunst dem Volke” – Art to the people – was originally engraved on the front of the building, summed up the objective of the society.

    Karl-Liebknecht-House, formerly the headquarters of the German Communist Party (KPD) and now the Left Party (Die Linke) also stands on the Square.

    Red Rosa has also now disappeared

    Where she lies is unknown

    Because she told the truth to the poor

    The rich have hunted her out of the world.

    (Bertolt Brecht)


    Inken and Hinrich Baller

    There are two quite distinctive buildings on the Schloßstrasse in Charlottenburg. This school hall, the Carl Schuhmann Hallen


    and this block of apartments.


    We’d spotted them during our previous visit to Berlin last July and couldn’t help but notice them again during our recent visit to the city, on our way to the  the Sammlung Scharf-Gerstenberg and the Berggruen Museum. They were very “Art Nouveau” in style, with distinctive architectural features and metalwork ornamentation, but there was something a little different about it – less florid, more “modern”.

    A sign on the street revealed that they had been designed by Inken and Hinrich Baller.


    The buildings have plenty of glass,


    distinctive, angular balconies and “spidery” branch like ironwork


    Sharp corners




    When we visited the Hackeschen Höfe, we spotted this courtyard that was linked into the complex


    Walking through there was something familiar about the architecture


    Particularly the ornamentation.



    A little research confirmed that the architect was Hinrich Baller.

    The Gemäldegalerie, Berlin


    During the Cold War and partition of Germany and Berlin, Museum Island was in the eastern sector of the city – in the DDR. West Berlin created their own cultural quarter close to Potsdamer Plaza – the Kulturforum with Mies van der Rohe’s Neu Nationalgalerie, and the Philharmonie and Chamber Music Hal , the Berlin Sate Library and the Gemäldegalerie, which houses an impressive collections of “old masters”.

    The Gemäldegaleriewas was designed by Munich architects Heinz Hilmer and Christoph Sattler. There are 72 rooms which flow around a large central hall, described by the museum as a "meditation hall". The hall sometimes displays sculpture, but is mostly empty, allowing easy crossing between rooms.


    The collection is organised so that the rooms on the northern side of the gallery displays works by artists from Northern Europe and the the rooms on the south side mainly devoted to Southern Europe (Italy and France, principally). They also have paintings by English artists, including Gainsborough.

    It’s a massive collection, and although we spent more than a couple of hours in the gallery we hardly scratched the surface. However, I’m not overfond of Italian art from the Renaissance and earlier with  religious and mythical themes. I can admire the skill of the artists but it doesn’t move me. So we concentrated on works from Northern Europe, particularly the painting from the Low Countries from the 15th to 17th centuries.

    There were paintings by Jan van Eyck,

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    Pieter Bruegel,

    File:Pieter Bruegel the Elder - The Dutch Proverbs - Google Art Project.jpg

    Albrecht Dürer,

    File:Albrecht Dürer - Jakob Muffel - Google Art Project.jpg

    several Rembrandts, 

    File:Rembrandt - Auto-retrato, 1634 - Gemäldegalerie, Berlin.jpg

    File:Rembrandt - The Mennonite Minister Cornelis Claesz. Anslo in Conversation with his Wife, Aaltje (detail) - WGA19143.jpg

    and Dutch “genre” paintings and winter landscapes

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    The stars of the show, though were two paintings by Vermeer

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    of which this was my favourite.

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    The Hamburger Bahnhof


    The Hamburger Banhoff – it isn’t in Hamburg and it isn’t a Bahnhof (railway station) either – not any longer anyway. Although originally it was the Berlin railway terminus for the line from Hamburg, these days, like the Gare d’Orsay in Paris, it’s an art gallery – the Museum für Gegenwart (Museum for the Present), part of the Berlin National Gallery displaying Contemporary art.


    The central exhibition space is the rather magnificent hall where 19th Century rail passengers would have boarded their steam trains.


    A beautifully restored, airy, tranquil space, ideally suited for displaying large scale sculpture.


    During our visit it was being used for Part File Score,  a sound installation by Susan Philipsz, a Scottish artist who won the Turner Prize in 2010, inspired by the persecution of Hanns Eisler by the FBI.

    I’ll let the museum’s website explain what the work is about.

    Based on three film music compositions by Eisler, Philipsz has developed a 24-channel sound installation. Recorded individually by live musicians in the studio, each tone is played separately on one of 24 loudspeakers installed in the hall. Through this acoustic work and 12 prints, in which pages from musical scores by Eisler are overlaid with pages from his FBI file, Philipsz attempts to convey Eisler’s aesthetic of “displaced form” while touching on themes such as life’s journey and the experience of surveillance, separation and displacement.

    We sat and listened for a while, soaking up the atmosphere in the large open hall which, relatively early in the day, felt empty. I found the work interesting and rather atmospheric, if a little disturbing. The atonal sounds – arriving from different directions from speakers positioned around the hall – echoing around the cavernous space.

    Hung on the walls underneath the arches were 12 large scale prints copied from Eisler’s FBI file – “redacted” by heavy black lines – printed over the composer’s annotated musical scores. I found it fascinating to pick out other names mentioned including Schoenberg, Chaplin, “Bert” Brecht  and Fritz Lang.

    A review of the exhibition is available on the Guardian’s website.

    Most of the art was displayed in the wings off the main hall. I’d say we only liked about 20 or 30% of what we saw. But that is normal with Contemporary Art, I think. As much is still relatively new it hasn’t all been subjected to the test of time to determine what is really great.

    I didn’t note the titles or the names of the artists in most cases, but these were some of the works on display that I particularly liked




    This work was created by the artist spraying graffiti observed in Berlin on the wall – each word and phrase sprayed on top of each other. The emptied spray cans are scattered on the floor. There was a video showing the artist creating the work.



    I rather lied these life-sized sculptures of birds scattered on the floor. You had to walk through the flock to access other parts of the exhibition.


    This is Waiter’s Race, by Nicholas Monro.  Questioning the competitive nature of art, the figures represent the artists Marcel Duchamp, David Hockney, Gilbert and George, Dan Flavin and Monro himself. Can you spot who’s who?


    This is Andy Warhol’s large scale print of Mao. They had several works by the former on display.


    These paintings are by Cy Twombley. Very typical of his style.


    Les Klee du Paradis

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    Across the road from the Scloss Charlotenburg in Berlin, facing each other on opposite sides of the Schloßstraße, are two Galleries that are part of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin – the Sammlung Scharf-Gerstenberg Museum and the Berggruen Museum.

    The  works displayed in the Sammlung Scharf-Gerstenberg Museum  were collected by Otto Gerstenberg and his grandson Dieter Scharf. It consits of a large number of works by Surrealists and precursors to surrealism such as Goya. More about the permanent collection in another post but during our visit the temporary exhibtion at the museum concentrated on the works of Paul Klee.


    Last summer we’d visited the Berggruen Museum to look at their collection of works by Picasso, Matisse, Giacometti and others. And during that visit I really discovered the work of Paul Klee. Although I’d heard of him before the visit I’d never really paid much attention to his work, but while wandering round the Berggruen I found myself becoming more and more fascinated by his work – the brightly coloured, small scale pictures, painted in different styles, that occupied room after room in the Gallery. After the visit I wanted to find out more  and subsequently was pleased when I had the opportunity to go to the exhibition of his work at the Tate Modern in London earlier this year.

    The temporary exhibition, Les Klee du Paradis – Paul Klee in the Collections of the Nationalgalerie, features the 70 works from the Berggruen Museum together with another 30 or so from Scharf-Gerstenberg’s collection plus other works by Klee from the Neue Nationalgalerie. It was a comprehensive exhibition covering the period when Klee’s was a Master at the Bauhaus in Weimar and Dessau, some early, Symbolist-inspired works, as well as some works from later in his career.

    ‘Les Klee du paradis’ means ‘The Klees of paradise’. At the same time, the name ‘Klee’ sounds similar to the French word for ‘key’ (clé). This homage to Heinz Berggruen, who was born in Berlin 100 years ago on 6 January 1914, thus promises to hold the ‘the keys to paradise’.

    Paradise indeed. A marvellous exhibition. Not a duff paining in sight. These were some of my favourites

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    Landscape in Blue (1917)

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    Blue Mountain (1919)

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    Der Bock (1921)

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    Abstract colour harmony in squares with vermillion accents (1924)

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    Ancient town by the water (1924)

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    Part of G (1927)

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    The sealed lady (1930)

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    Di Zeit (1933)

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    New game begins (1934)

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    Y Isolated (1937)


    The Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church

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    One of my favourite films is Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire (Der Himmel über Berlin). In the opening shot, the angel,Damiel, played by Bruno Ganz, is seen peering down on passers by from the top of a tower with a damaged spire.


    This is the iconic Berlin building, the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church (Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche) located on on the Kurfürstendamm, very close to the Berlin Zoo railway station.

    Like Coventry Cathedral, which I visited recently, it’s a modern church built within the ruins of an older structure that was damaged by bombing during the war.

    The original church on the site was built in the 1890s. Damaged on December 23rd, 1943 and completely destroyed in  air-raids in April 1945.

    After the war it was decided to build a new church on the site, dedicated to reconcilitation as is Coventry Cathedral. The new building was designed by Egon Eiermann with an octagonal church building and hexagonal bell tower clustered around the remaining ruins of the old church. It was originally intended to demolish the damaged tower from the old church but after a public outcry it was preserved. The foundation-stone of the new church was laid on May 9th, 1959 and the building was completed in 1963.

    The ruins of the old building have been undergoing restoration for a number of years and during our visit were partially obscured by hoarding erected to protect the workers from the elements. The work should have been completed last year but is still ongoing. The following picture from Wikipedia shows what the tower looks like.



    Underneath the tower, the former vestibule of the old church is now the Memorial Hall. On the ceiling there a series of mosaics showing a procession of Hohenzollern princes.



    The new church is constructed from hexagonal concrete elements containing stained glass, held in a steel frame. The glass, was designed by Gabriel Loire, The predominant colour is blue, with small areas of ruby red, emerald green and yellow. The walls are double skinned with 2.15 m cavity in which lamps are installed, creating a wall of blue and flooding blue light into the interior.


    The double skin helps to keep noise out of the church as it is situated on a busy traffic island. The hexagonal bell tower is constructed of the same elements, but is only single skinned.

    The golden statue of Christ on the cross was created by the Munich artist Karl Hemmeter, and is made from tombac, a special kind of brass with a high copper content.


    The church is dedicated to reconciliation and there are a number of objects to celebrate this. Inside the main church, on the back wall, there is the drawing of The Stalingrad Madonna, created in 1942 by Kurt Reuber, a German soldier, of which there is a copy in Coventry Cathedral. 


    In the Memorial Hall there is the crucifix from the altar of the old church and a  from Coventry and the icon cross of the Russian Orthodox Church.


    Due to its distinctive appearance the new church is often referred to as the  "Lippenstift und Puderdose” (the lipstick and the powder box).

    Der Hackeschen Höfe


    A feature of Berlin architecture from the 19th and early 20th Centuries was the linked courtyards behind the large buildings used for housing and commercial purposes.

    Due to targeted immigration polices of the Prussian rulers as well as other factors, Berlin’s population began to boom in the 19th century and new residential buildings had to be constructed. In the 1870s, Berlin developed a population of over one million people, whereas ……..

    The city center residential districts had to be utilized as optimally as possible – this resulted in tenement houses. Behind the prestigious street-front buildings that served as the homes of the bourgeoisie, rear buildings were built across the city, which housed domestic employees, workmen, and the poorer social strata.

    The building’s courtyard served as a separation for these differing social and spatial lifestyles – often three or four courtyards were placed in a row.  (Source)

    One example of this type of arrangement that has been restored and renovated and which is a popular tourist attraction is the Hackeschen Höfe, which is in the Hackeschen Market district and literally around the corner from the hotel we stayed in during our recent visit to Berlin.

    The compex, designed by August Endel in the Jugendstil (Art Nouveau)  style , has a total of 8 interconnected courtyards which contain shops, bars, restaurants, offices and apartments. There’s even a small cinema and a theatre.

    The first courtyard is particularly impressive with it’s coloured glazed brickwork and highly ornamented windows.



    The buildings in the second courtyard were mainly occupied by offices but those in the other courtyards were mainly residential with smaller shops etc. on the ground floor.






    It was very pleant wandering around the courtyards and browsing in the shops, some of them selling quite distinctive products including one, the Golem Kollektion, that specialised in Art Nouveau style tiles.




    Lovely – but quite pricey!

    Jewish Museum Berlin – The Exhibition


    During our visit to the Jewish Museum in Berlin we weren’t only interested in the architecture but spent some time looking around the permanent exhibition located on the top two floors of the building. It didn’t just concentrate on the Holocaust, portraying the Jews simply as victims, which is the case with the Holocaust Memorial. It showed how they became part of European and German society and how they became integrated to a large extent in Germany.


    Although  I had a reasonable understanding of the history,  I learned more about why the Jews were well positioned to the advantage of the development of Capitalism because of the role they had played as itinerant traders and in finance, roles that "native" Germans were less likely to play. There were displays about certain individuals who played a key role in German life, culture and society such as the philosopher Moses Mendelssohn, the poet  Heinrich Heine, industrialist, politician, writer, and statesman  Walther Rathenau, who served as Foreign Minister of Germany during the Weimar Republic and the Socialists Karl Marx and Ferdinand Lassalle.


    There were displays about Jewish life in the Middle Ages and the 19th and 20th Centuries.


    And given what happened in the 1930’s and 40’s it was ironic to see these gravestones of Jews who dies for the “Fatherland” during the First World War


    The sections on the holocaust were moving, and also informative, but are covered in more depth at the Holocaust Memorial.



    The most disturbing and moving part for me was seeing the roll of yellow cloth printed with the stars – and the revelation that the Jews were charged 10 pfennings for the privilege of buying one to wear.


    Jewish Museum Berlin – Architecture


    When we arrived in Berlin last Monday, it was around 5 o’clock by the time we had checked in and settled into our hotel. We’d discovered when planning the trip that the Jewish Museum was open until 10 o’clock on a Monday evening, so decided that a visit would be a good way to spend our first evening in the city.

    We took the U-Bahn from Alexanderplatz, which was a little stressful as the ticket machines wouldn’t accept the only 5 and 10 Euro notes we had on us and they don’t accept 20 Euro notes. It was quite frustrating and a little embarrassing as a queue of commuters was building up behind us. Luckily a seller of the German equivalent of the Big Issue saw what was going on and changed a note for us so we were able to buy our tickets with coins. We left him a coin as a thanks for helping us out. Coming back later on we discovered that there was a bus that stopped outside the museum that would take us back to Alexanderplatz. A few lessons learned there – sometimes buses are easier than the underground. (And taking a double decker bus is sometimes a good way of seeing the sights).

    When we finally arrived at the Museum, being dark we couldn’t really see much of the outside of the building. We knew that would be the case. but we were able to get a flavour of the building and  experience the architecture inside. Later in the week we decided to return during the daytime to have another look.

    The museum has two buildings. The older part Baroque in style was built in 1735 and was originally used as for the Collegienhaus to the regal Court of Justice. Today it houses the entrance, shop, cafe and is used for temporary exhibitions. The newer part is the dramatic, zinc clad zig-zag designed by Daniel Liebskind, which is meant to represent a reconstructed, shattered Star of David.


    The above image from Wikipedia  is an overhead shot of the museum showing the two building. It is out of date, however, as the courtyard of the old building has been enclosed  in glass to form an atrium with windows that overlook the garden. During our night time visit the glass  were like black mirrors that reflected the interior.


    The outside of the Liebskind building is scored with irregular lines or slits which are glazed to form windows which in the daytime allow light to enter. But the positioning of the windows isn’t random – the Museum’s website tells us that

    During the design process, the architect Daniel Libeskind plotted the addresses of prominent Jewish and German citizens on a map of pre-war Berlin and joined the points to form an "irrational and invisible matrix" on which he based the language of form, the geometry and shape of the building.

    The positioning of windows in the New Building was also based on this network of connections.


    When it was dark outside the window slits gave an interesting effect being pitch black.


    During the daytime in some cases they appeared bright white letting light beams shine into the halls


    but in other cases appeared blue – probably caused by the reflection of the sky.


    Access to the new building and the permanent exhibition was via an underground tunnel – the "Axis of Continuity" which connects the Old Building with the staircase which leads up to the exhibition levels.

    This is cut across by two other “axes”.



    At the end of the "Axis of the Holocaust"  there is a heavy door which when opened allows access to the Holocaust Tower. This is a tall concrete shell with a slit at the top which lets in sounds of passing traffic and people from outside and, in the daytime, light. At night it was eerily quiet and almost pitch black inside this tall narrow room.


    The "Axis of Emigration" leads outside to daylight and the Garden of Exile. In the garden there are 49 tall concrete stelae, set out in a square plot, which are filled with earth and planted with Russian willow oak. The garden is on a 12° gradient and this combined with the angles of the stelae made moving around it something of a disorientating experience – something Liebskind wanted to achieve – reproducing a sense of what the exiled Jews felt on reaching their destination


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    The building reminded us  of the Imperial War Museum in Manchester, also by Liebskind. Both have metallic cladding and structures that are shattered and reconstructed forms. The globe in the case of Manchester and the Star of David in Berlin. Both are quite remarkable.