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Frans Post - Painter of Paradise Lost at Haus der Kunst
Frans Post, Brasilianische Landschaft mit Tupi-Indianern, 1650. Lent by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase, Rogers Fund, special funds, James S. Deely Gift, and Gift of Edna H. Sachs and other gifts and bequests, by exchange, 1981 (1981.318). Holz, 61 x 91,4 cm

MUNICH, GERMANY.- Haus der Kunst – Muenchen, presents Frans Post (1612-1680). Painter of Paradise Lost, on view through September 17, 2006. He has been called "Brazilian Canaletto," "Rousseau's 17th century toll keeper" - there has been no shortage of comparisons to describe the fascination with Frans Post. He claims a particular place in the history of painting. Frans Post was born in Haarlem and, following the early death of his father, probably trained by his brother, the architect and painter Pieter Post (1608-1669). He went to Brazil at 25 in the retinue of Prince Johann Moritz of Nassau Siegen. In the coastal area around what is now the major city of Recife, power had then been held for a few years no longer by the Catholic Portuguese but by the Calvinist Dutch. The merchant princes of the West Indies Company had appointed the prince as Governor. In the trading triangle, sugar and wood were exported to Europe and slaves imported from the west coast of Africa.

The prince's efforts, however, went beyond the mercantile interests of the shareholders. In the few years of his government (1637-1644), he expanded the colony according to the principles of a liberal state, and is therefore held in fond memory by modern multicultural Brazil. He owes his posthumous reputation mainly to his personal involvement in science and art. The builder-owner of the Mauritshuis in The Hague commissioned cartographers, naturalists and painters at his own expense with the task of describing the "parrot land," which, with its enormous richness of species, appeared to Europeans like a primeval paradise. The expedition was summed up in Caspar Barlaeus's report "Rerum per octennium in Brasilia gestarum historia" (1647), to which Post contributed 32 illustrations, based on sketches and notes he made on location. Due to their almost photographic realism, the paintings Frans Post made in Brazil are among the most valuable testimonials of the epoch.

After returning from Brazil in 1644, Post soon found and filled an exotic niche in the art market with his Brazilian landscapes, making him no longer dependent on court commissions. In Haarlem, where landscape painting by numerous masters such as Jacob van Ruisdael (1628/29-1682) prevailed, he transformed his accurate nature sketches into decorative works of art that met the expectations of the sophisticated Dutch public. In so doing, he introduced America into European painting. At the same time, he further developed his own art: between 1644-1650, he referred back to drawings he had produced on site in order to provide the true-to-life pictures of a recently returned witness to a public prepared by current travel reports. In the 1650s, he oriented his work more to the style of other masters such as Cornelis Vroom (ca. 1591-1661) and began to vary his own compositions. He reached the pinnacle of his career in the 1660s, just as the Dutch ceded their Brazilian colony back to the Portuguese and were looking back on their own Paradise Lost. Post now produced a virtually encyclopedic abundance of motifs of Brazilian flora and fauna under a radiant blue, romantic sky. In his later years he once again struck a new, this time wistful tone. His rural scenes of the late years up to 1680 frequently capture an ephemeral evening mood.

Since his rediscovery about a century ago, Post has repeatedly awakened the interest of collectors and researchers, first in Brazil and then in Europe and the United States. He is the subject of study not only for art historians but also for ethnologists, botanists and zoologists. Following the exhibitions in Basel and Tubingen (1990) and a small exhibition concentrating on the Nassau donation to Louis XIV in the Louvre in Paris (2005), the Haus der Kunst is dedicating the third and to date largest monographic exhibition of the painter in Europe: Frans Post's artistic development is documented with 25 paintings and 10 sketches that hold up to the strictest standards with regards to artistic quality, state of preservation and authenticity. Such a concentration of works by the artist has never been seen before.

Among the works on loan is the painting "Mauritsstad and Recife" from 1653, one of the most valuable old masters' paintings of South American provenance. In this panoramic painting, landscape, architecture and ethnic-confessional diversity enter a unique union with one another: There is also the almost incidental depiction of high ranking figures, the Prince of Nassau perhaps, amidst the bustle of daily activities.

Project Morrinho

Out of a lack of a place to play, the youth of one of Rio de Janeiro's favelas eight years ago began to create their own miniature city out of bricks, inhabited by figures and based on the actual laws of the favela. Since then, Morrinho ("Small Hill") has grown into a mini-metropolis encompassing almost 300 square meters. Invited by the Haus der Kunst, these young people are bringing their project to Munich, where they will build a second city, thereby updating the utopia alluded to in the paintings by Frans Post.

Bavaria - Brazil

Using a selection of additional exhibits, the show pays tribute to Bavarian traveling scientists, artists and emigrants who took part in Brazil's discovery. The Haus Wittelsbach sponsored, for instance, the travels of the Bavarian scientists Carl Friedrich Philipp Martius and Johann Baptist Spix (1817-20) and in 1888 the Princess Therese von Bayern conducted scientific and ethnographic studies in Brazil.

Rosilene Luduvico

Frans Post first saw Brazil through the eyes of a colonist. What happens when eyes conditioned to other circumstances follow his traces? Rosilene Luduvico, born in 1969, grew up in a mountain village without electricity near Belo Horizonte. She left Brazil to study at the Dusseldorf Academy of Art when she was the same age Frans Post was when he left Holland. On the initiative of the Haus der Kunst, the artist worked in the same locations as Frans Post did, in north-eastern Brazil. Her works possess a lyrical quality, creating a contrast to the sober realism of Frans Post's early works.

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