7 May 2013

Two different museums in Hannover

My third and final day in Hannover was mostly spent in museums with a little bit of walking between them thrown in for good measure.

First stop was Historisches Museum Hannover, i.e. the museum of the history of Hannover.

This was a mixed bag as a foreign visitor. All but a couple of the information displays were in German only but there was an audio guide in English that explained some of the main exhibits.

Inspired by this and by my natural reluctance to follow regimes, I wandered around the museum randomly taking no account of chronology or theme, not that I could tell how the museum was organised.

Luckily for me the museum had lots of simple artifacts that told their story clearly without words and I was able to find lots of things to look at from model buildings to children's toys to farm implements to pictures of factories.

And this marvellous car.

There were many posters and paintings too and I liked a lot of these, especially the simpler ones in the style usually associated with Soviet propaganda; the strength of the worker and all that.

I also like this one because it has an aeroplane in it and has a neat composition with the middle third full of sky.

There were some Nazi era posters too (much like the cover to Hawkwind's album Astounding Sounds, Amazing Music) but I did not want to take a chance on any of those here in case that German text said something deeply inappropriate.

There was stuff about the war that I could understand and the pictures of the devastation caused by bombing in 1944 were difficult to reconcile. I hope we have moved on from the mass killing of civilians.

What was less controversial was the information on the creation of Hannover. I recognised the zig-zag style of the original defences to the Old Town as they are still very evident in Amsterdam, What I did not know was that this was a Dutch design that the Hanoverians copied.
These features have long gone from Hannover for one simple reason, they did not work! They were filled in after Hannover lost an important battle, probably against the French who often seemed to be riding around in that part of Europe before Germany was a country.

I found it interesting that when Hannover extended to a new town on the other side of the river that the new town was not covered by the charters that established Hannover and so, for a while, it was legally and politically separate from it.

I am not a great fan of history and even less so of German history so it is to the museum's credit that it kept me occupied for a couple of hours. The posters and models helped.

Maxed out on history I then went, after a suitable break for tea and cake, to the Museum of Modern Art which is a little out from the centre of town but is nicely situated by the lake. It's on a corner plot and that must have contributed towards the building's confusing layout but I suspect that the main culprit was the architect and his hatred of square rooms connected by straight and level corridors.

As a result I know that I missed some of the museum out. There were places where you could glimpse other levels and sometimes you then found yourself there and other times they proved to be elusive and undiscovered.

The building was frustrating but the art was delightful. The bad news is that photography was forbidden but the good news is that the museum had the least attentive guards that I have ever seen. For example, four of the five ladies on the lower ground floor congregated together for an earnest conversation leaving the rooms unattended.

There was, of course, quite a lot of works by Niki de Saint Phalle and these went far beyond the colourful bulbous figures that I had seen elsewhere. For example, one of my favourites, one of the anti-war pieces, was a large figure made out of all sorts of scraps including lots of toy guns.

This is by her too and is a self-portrait.

There was one bulbous figure and that was down in the depths of the museum next to a children's drawing area.

There were a few sculptures down their too and elsewhere there were some installations (I liked the brown coat hanging against a brown wall) but most of the rooms (that I found) had paintings in them. And I found them all very approachable too.

The rooms were organised by style, e.g. cubism, though I did not discern any chronology, or other sequence, as I moved through the gallery.

Moving from one style to the next produced some interesting juxtapositions. This enhanced the experience for me as I was treating the gallery like a lucky-dip but I could imagine that it could be frustrating for a serious student looking for connections and developments in artistic styles.

On the plus side, the rooms were bright and white, as galleries are meant to be these days. and the pictures were well presented. On the negative side, a lot of the paintings (understandably) were behind glass and that made reflections a bit of a problem at times, especially when trying to take a close-up photograph (smiles).

The confusing building was a problem and almost spoilt the day, but not quite. I managed to find enough rooms with enough interesting things in to keep me entertained for another couple of hours, and that was a rewarding day done.

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