Opening times

Museum, boutique and bistro

Tu – We 10:00 - 17:00

Th 10:00 - 19:00

Fr – Su 10:00 - 17:00

Library

Tu – We, Fr 10:00 - 18:00

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Sa – Mo closed

Special opening times

Su, 10/30/2022 10:00 - 17:00, Family Day

Mo, 12/19/2022 closed

Tu, 12/20/2022 10:00 - 17:00

We, 12/21/2022 10:00 - 17:00

Th, 12/22/2022 10:00 - 19:00

Fr, 12/23/2022 10:00 - 17:00

Sa, 12/24/2022 10:00 - 14:00, Christmas Eve

Su, 12/25/2022 10:00 - 17:00, Christmas

Mo, 12/26/2022 10:00 - 17:00, St. Stephen´s Day

Tu, 12/27/2022 10:00 - 17:00

We, 12/28/2022 10:00 - 17:00

Th, 12/29/2022 10:00 - 19:00

Fr, 12/30/2022 10:00 - 17:00

Sa, 12/31/2022 10:00 - 17:00

Su, 1/1/2023 10:00 - 17:00, New Year´s Day

Mo, 1/2/2023 10:00 - 17:00, Saint Berchtold

Show all

Opening times

Museum, boutique and bistro

Tu – We 10:00 - 17:00

Th 10:00 - 19:00

Fr – Su 10:00 - 17:00

Library

Tu – We, Fr 10:00 - 18:00

Th 10:00 - 19:00

Sa – Mo closed

Special opening times

Su, 10/30/2022 10:00 - 17:00, Family Day

Mo, 12/19/2022 closed

Tu, 12/20/2022 10:00 - 17:00

We, 12/21/2022 10:00 - 17:00

Th, 12/22/2022 10:00 - 19:00

Fr, 12/23/2022 10:00 - 17:00

Sa, 12/24/2022 10:00 - 14:00, Christmas Eve

Su, 12/25/2022 10:00 - 17:00, Christmas

Mo, 12/26/2022 10:00 - 17:00, St. Stephen´s Day

Tu, 12/27/2022 10:00 - 17:00

We, 12/28/2022 10:00 - 17:00

Th, 12/29/2022 10:00 - 19:00

Fr, 12/30/2022 10:00 - 17:00

Sa, 12/31/2022 10:00 - 17:00

Su, 1/1/2023 10:00 - 17:00, New Year´s Day

Mo, 1/2/2023 10:00 - 17:00, Saint Berchtold

Show all

In the Forest. A Cultural History

National Museum Zurich | 18.3.2022 - 17.7.2022
published on 16.3.2022

Used. Destroyed. Protected. The relationship between humankind and the forest has changed over the past few centuries. A new exhibition at the National Museum shows that this transformation has had an impact on culture, art and literature.

The forests – used by people for centuries – have faced increasing destruction since the 19th century on account of industrialisation. And this destruction has extended to a large proportion of the resident fauna and flora. But not everyone has focused solely on the economic aspects. People such as Paul Sarasin (1856-1929), naturalist and co-founder of the Swiss National Park, campaigned for nature protection, and succeeded in initiating a gradual change in thinking in some parts of society: a move away from reckless exploitation and towards a slowly growing awareness that we need to be more careful with the environment. These are the first steps towards environmentalism. The total dedication of Bruno Manser, who went to Borneo in the 1980s to join forces with nomadic jungle-dwellers to fight against the clearance of their rainforest habitat, shows that this “journey” doesn’t necessarily stop at one’s own national borders. And Manser eventually paid for his dedication with his life. In his richly illustrated notebooks, which are on display in the exhibition, he recorded his impressions in drawings and words.

Humankind’s relationship with the forest, which has endured over the centuries, is also reflected in scores of artistic and literary works. And this relationship has been changing constantly. While artists and writers in the Romantic period saw the forest as a place of retreat and a source of calm in the midst of an increasingly frenetic world, in the classical modern period it was elevated to the purest form of aesthetics and sublime grandeur.

In 20th-century art, the subject of the forest increasingly developed into a political statement against rampant environmental degradation. This fundamental idea has persisted up to the present day, even though the forms and the means are different now than they were just a few decades ago. At the same time, the ideas from the Romantic period, of seeing the forest once again as a place of contemplation, peace and relaxation, are more relevant than ever. We still live in an accelerating world in which more and more people feel the need to seek out a place of peaceful retreat.

The exhibition ends with Ugo Rondinone’s tree sculpture – more than a portent of global warming. Other pieces by contemporary artists such as Guido Baselgia, Denise Bertschi, Julian Charrière, Franz Gertsch, Shirana Shahbazi and Thomas Struth show that today we can experience the forest as a complete, single entity. Visitors can also take a seat in the “Arena for the Tree” in the National Museum’s inner courtyard and ponder the future of the forest. At the centre of this work by artist Klaus Littmann is a stark, leafless tree, encouraging observers to think about their own relationship with the forest.

Images

The oak forest as a favourite motif

Robert Zünd painted the same oak forest several times, almost identically. Owing to his meticulous style of painting, he holds a special position in Swiss landscape painting. Robert Zünd (1827–1909), Eichwald, 1859, Oil on canvas, 77,7 x 104,2 cm.

Kunstmuseum Luzern, Depositum der Stiftung BEST Art Collection Luzern, vormals Bernhard Eglin-Stiftung, Inv.-Nr. M 87x, © Kunstmuseum Luzern, Photo: Roberto Pellegrini

The Woodcutter

Ferdinand Hodler’s Holzfäller stands for strength and resilience Ferdinand Hodlers Holzfäller ist Symbol für Stärke und Widerstandskraft. This heroic conqueror of nature will himself become the biggest threat. Ferdinand Hodler (1853–1918), Der Holzfäller, 1910, Oil on canvas, 129.5 x 100 cm.

Kunstsammlung der Schweizerischen Mobiliar Genossenschaft

Art from the Gran Chaco, Paraguay

The artist Osvaldo Pitoe reminds us of the meaning of the forest, which is today seriously under threat from deforestation. Osvaldo Pitoe, untitled, 2015.

Collection Artes Vivas, Verena Regehr Gerber

Forestry school

Experts in forest protection from the ETH Zurich Forestry school. Pictured: graduates and professors, 1866.

Photo: Archiv Eidg. Forschungsanstalt WSL, Bildarchiv Knuchel-ETH, 1892-1952

Gathering leaves

Leaves were used as fodder for cattle for centuries; they were also used as litter in byres and pigsties, or to fill the duvet covers of the poor. Ernest Biéler (1863–1948), Ramasseuse de feuilles mortes, undated [ca. 1909], Watercolour and pencil on paper, 47 x 57,9 cm.

Musée d’art du Valais, Sion, inv. BA 2201 ©Musées cantonaux du Valais, Sion. Michel Martinez

Forestry school

One tree after the other falls to the floor creakingly. Julian Charrière’s Ever Since We Crawled Out gets to the heart of the matter: can we still save the forests, or will soon the last tree fall?

©Julian Charrière, 2022, ProLitteris, Zurich / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, Germany

Idealized wilderness

The uprooted fir trees stand for the elemental and uncontrollable forces of nature. Caspar Wolf composed this primeval forest in his studio in a theatrical mis en scène. Caspar Wolf (1735–1783), Romantische Waldlandschaft mit drei Figuren, die eine Felszunge besteigen, 1769, Oil on canvas, 63 x 53,5 cm.

Aargauer Kunsthaus Aarau, Depositum der Koch-Berner-Stiftung, Photo: Jörg Müller

Destruction

In 1924 a landslide destroyed part of the village of Someo in Valle Maggia. The frequent landslides in Ticino are a result of the large-scale deforestation for the wood trade during the 19th century.

Photo: Anton Krenn, 1924, ETH-Bibliothek Zürich, Bildarchiv, Hs_1360-0173-002

Bruno and Along Sega

Bruno Manser committed himself to protecting the forests and the Penan people living there. Pictured:Along Sega, leader and speaker of the Penan people, issued a powerful warning to the world regarding the impending destruction of the rainforest in Sarawak (Malaysia).

Photo: Erik Pauser, 1999

Diary of Bruno Manser

During his stay among the Penan in Sarawak from 1984 to 1990, Bruno Manser kept a diary in which he meticulously described and depicted what he saw.

Museum der Kulturen Basel, Schenkung Erbengemeinschaft Bruno Manser 2021, Inv.-Nr. IIc 25507.08

Five past twelve?

Ugo Rondinone’s sculpture modelled on a 2,000-year old olive tree from southern Italy serves as a portent of climate change. Ugo Rondinone (*1964), wisdom? peace? blank? all of this?, 2007, cast aluminium, white lacquer.

Collection Maja Hoffmann / Luma Foundation, Photo: Enzo Velo

Arena for a Tree

Klaus Littmann, Arena für einen Baum / Arena for a Tree, Kunstintervention 2022, Zurich.

Photo: Aviaticfilms, Courtesy of the KBH.G Cultural Foundation

A view of the exhibition.

© Swiss National Museum

A view of the exhibition.

© Swiss National Museum

A view of the exhibition.

© Swiss National Museum

A view of the exhibition.

© Swiss National Museum

A view of the exhibition.

© Swiss National Museum

Exhibition poster

Swiss National Museum

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