STILL LIFE. NATURE MORTE
In 1803 the thousand years of monastic culture on Herrenchiemsee came to a violent end with the dissolution of the monasteries throughout the Holy Roman Empire. The Island Cathedral, an outstanding monument of Bavarian Baroque, was irreparably damaged by the incorporation of a brewery. For seventy years, the island was abandoned, until a consortium of timber merchants from Württemberg acquired forest clearance rights and started felling the ancient, hitherto untouched woodlands. The mayors of the local authorities bordering on Chiemsee petitioned the ruling dynasty. King Ludwig II took immediate action and acquired Herrenchiemsee for the Bavarian crown in 1873. The purchase was one of the earliest pioneering acts of state-sponsored environmental protection anywhere, even though the king himself, five years later, sacrificed some of the woods he had rescued to his own visions of art with the construction of the palace and the layout of the garden.
Under the influence of environmental destruction and the consequent global climate change, the Herrenchiemsee Festival, in its 2009 season, devoted itself to this particular aspect of Ludwig’s reign. For art has always been the most appropriate means of becoming aware of the state of nature in every sense of the term, and preserving it for posterity. It was and is, however, at the same time an indicator of changes: a warning voice against short-term opportunism.