The Isar valley south of Munich is a place of longing and a civic dream – and yet it makes a difference whether you live in your little house (or villa) on the right or left of the river. On the Grünwalder side you rarely if ever have an unobstructed view down to the water; the edge of the slope along the Pullacher or Baierbrunner municipal area can offer the definitely nicer views of the Isar flickering.
From his idyllic summer house in the south of Baierbrunn, the painter Bernhard Pankok had a magnificent view: of the sometimes green, sometimes bright mixed forest, the sparkling blue, gently meandering river – and in the background the gallery of the Bavarian Alps. No wonder that an eye person like the artist, who was born in Münster in 1872, repeatedly captured this sight on canvas. The all-rounder from Münster, who came to Munich in the 1890s and later also discovered the Isar valley, designed his summer house on the edge of the steeply sloping forest himself in the early years of the new century. Pankok was not only a painter, but also an architect, graphic artist, stage decorator and designer. The man, who lived in Stuttgart from 1902 but spent the last years of his life mainly in Baierbrunn, would have turned 150 this year.
In the small Isar valley community, which he has repeatedly captured in paintings, not much reminds of him. There is a Bernhard Pankok way, but that’s basically it. Monika Limmer, a painter herself and who has lived in Baierbrunn for many years, knows a lot about the artist, who worked as a former employee of the magazine “Jugend” in Munich, as the designer of the German catalog for the World Exhibition in Paris in 1900, but above all as a long-standing artist Director of the Stuttgart School of Applied Arts was a formative figure in German art history. “He didn’t commit himself,” says Limmer, who also sees herself as an artistic all-rounder. “He painted, designed furniture, candles, passenger cabins for zeppelins, furnished a Lake Constance steamboat and created outstanding prints”. She tells of one or the other old Baierbrunner who got to know Bernhard Pankok as a child. The artist died in 1943, according to Limmer probably in Munich and not in Baierbrunn (as can be read on his Wikipedia page); it is certain that he was buried in the small Isar valley village.
The grave has now been cleared – efforts are currently being made to house the urn appropriately in his native city of Münster – and the former summer house, in which he repeatedly stayed during his time in Stuttgart, no longer exists either. Although there were even efforts after the war to set up a museum there, on the high bank of the Isar at the southern exit of the community near the cemetery, as Monika Limmer and the Münster gallery owner and Pankok expert Andreas Gattinger explain, it was ultimately torn down. Today there is a villa from which you can also have a breathtaking view of the Isar valley and in which, among other things, a football star from FC Bayern is said to have lived for a short time.
“Baierbrunn was a kind of artists’ colony.”
How did Pankok, who was a universally interested artist, who always had crafts and trades in mind in his work, came to the Isar valley in the first place? Not least through an artist friend, the landscape painter and graphic artist Ferdinand Coppenrath, also from Münster, who lived in Baierbrunn for a long time and owned an Art Nouveau villa on Hermann-Roth-Straße that was built there in 1906. “Back then, Baierbrunn was a kind of artists’ colony,” says Limmer. The Münster male-artist friendship also produced a romantic “side” effect: Pankok married Ferdinand’s sister Antonette “Toni” Coppenrath in 1901. Descendants of the Coppenraths still live in Baierbrunn – very close to the villa, by the way, where Christel Fischer lives, the widow of the sculptor Lothar Fischer, who died in 2004 and who, together with the painter Helmut Sturm, who had lived in Pullach for a long time, founded the important avant-garde artist group “SPUR”. co-founded in the 1950s.
Monika Limmer, who has already exhibited works this year with her Buchenhain studio partner Petra Keil in the rooms of the association “Mittendrin in Baierbrunn” (“Impression Gmoid”), can draw from a rich art-historical past on site – but not only that, that Legacy of the publisher and art patron Rolf Becker (Pharmacy magazine) is also up to date and can be seen every day in the town center around the Wort & Bild publishing house: modern sculptures by Lothar Fischer, Eduardo Chillida, Jaume Plensa and Fritz Koenig through to Magdalena Abakanowicz.
Bernhard Pankok, on the other hand, is considered the most important and successful artist from Münster, as Andreas Gattinger from the Ostendorff gallery there explains. In Westphalia he has already been extensively celebrated and honored in this anniversary year. For Gattinger, Pankok is a protagonist in the development of artistic modernism, above all because of his many years of work at the Kunstgewerbeschule in Stuttgart: “He set completely new standards there with his teaching and brought art into craft.” And thus became one of the forefathers of the “Bauhaus” movement founded by Walter Gropius in 1919. He was also important as one of the co-creating figures of “Art Nouveau” (work for the magazines “Jugend” and “Pan”), his book graphics and furniture were and are still recognized today. “That too Museum of Modern Art has furniture from him,” says Gattinger. As a painter, however, Pankok was not an avant-gardist and was not overly influenced by Expressionism or Cubism. In 1937 he finally resigned as director of the School of Applied Arts – he was probably no friend of the NS regime and never a party member of the NSDAP , but probably arranged himself appropriately.He spent the last years of his life again in his Baierbrunn house.
Monika Limmer, who also owns some smaller works by Pankok, especially likes his etchings and lithographs. The local association for home care, where Limmer is active and dealt with him extensively in the anniversary year, would also like to make the artist better known in Baierbrunn. One way to encourage this would be to purchase one of the numerous paintings by Pankok with motifs from Baierbrunn and views of the town – and maybe even hang it up in the town hall. In any case, the home club plays with this idea. Not every community is lucky enough to have been the subject of an important painter.