Coal and Klee

Last weekend was the 39th Global Sketchcrawl and I had planned to join a group drawing in the Zeche Zollverein in Essen in the Ruhr.  I managed to convince myself to get up only a little past my usual weekday time in order to catch a train that would get me to Essen by 11.00.  Only, because of engineering works in a couple of places, it didn’t… I missed the hourly connection from Oberhausen and so missed the meet-up point in the Zeche Zollverein, once one of the the largest collieries in the Ruhrgebiet and Europe producing, at its height, 12,000 tons of coal per day (1). Since 2001, it has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  I looked around for sketchers but it is a big site and it was only possible to see a fraction of it before a major downpour. I stayed dry in the Köhlenwäsche a massive structure where the coal was once washed and did one interior sketch there.


The Zollverein is also an Anchor Point on the European Route of Industrial Heritage. A second sketch was done of the Bauhaus-inspired Shaft 12, which was opened in 1932.  This structure has earned the Zeche Zollverein its reputation as “the most beautiful coal mine in the world” (1).  It is a lot more stable than my sketch suggests…  I didn’t finish the pipeline on the left, whose size I had originally misjudged as an error of perspective, because it started to hail heavily and it was necessary to run for cover.  The supports are drawn as they appeared from a distance.  I had intended to look at them more closely but this was forgotten in the downpour.


After the rain set in, and having failed to find other sketchers, I caught the tram into Essen to visit Museum Folkwang (info in English here) where I caught the penultimate day of an exhibition of Paul Klee’s Angels.  This was one of the most charming exhibitions that I have seen in recent times. Klee painted and drew most of his angels while ill, towards the end  of his life (between 1938 and 1940).  The works are very affecting in their simplicity, and are all the more emotionally-charged because of the context in which they were created. Often the images are formed predominantly from a single continuous line with a few additional marks to denote facial features or tears. Through these minimal lines, Klee created fragile, delicate and intimate images of very human angels and the viewer is drawn in to empathise with these beautiful figures. My favourite image, which I returned to several times, was “Er weint” (“He cries”); it is an irresistible image and yet the act of viewing it almost feels intrusive.

I understand that many of the images come from the permanent collection at Zentrum Paul Klee in Bern. This exhibition may be the same one that will shortly be seen at the Hamburg Kunsthalle (26th April to 7th July 2013).


1  European Route of Industrial Heritage World Heritage Site Zollverein.


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