Christian Hess’ Exhibition in Palermo
Giovanni Campolmi
RAI television news at 1.30 p.m., December 9, 1974

Liliano Frattini from the Rome studio:
To return an artist of definite significance to the European culture: this is the aim of the retrospective exhibition of the painter Christian Hess that is currently being held in Palermo. The initiative was taken by the German Institute of Culture and the Sicilian Region who resolved that this cultural recovery was indeed to begin from the island that had touched Hess’ heart and where this artist from Alto Adige had lived for a long time. As for the retrospective exhibition of Christian Hess, here is Giovanni Campolmi’s report from Palermo:
It is unquestionable that Christian Hess’ personality is one of the least known but also one of the most interesting in the German art world in the period between the two world wars. Having met with tragic death at 49 years of age during the final months of World War Two, he was unable to express himself in the fullness of his maturity, unlike other contemporary artists who had shared his torment and untiring search for freedom.

What strikes the most in Christian Hess is his anxiety to make new experiences, his intolerance for a system and a type of society that oppressed him for their rigid patterns to which he reacted with biting irony. Indeed, this anxiety, this yearning for freedom led him to a continuous wandering and to long journeys from Scandinavia to Sicily.
Both physically and spiritually exhausted by the burning experience of World War One, on the wake of the Expressionist movement he joined in Munich the Juryfreie, a group of young artists whose collective exhibitions saw the participation of such painters as Picasso, Max Ernst, Beckman, Severini and Paul Klee. However, it was in the South, in contact with the Mediterranean light, that his palette brightened with new colors and shades that were going to be a constant in his expression.
In Messina - portrayed here in its most typical monument, the Neptune - Hess worked intensely and discovered a Mediterranean dimension that matched his natural love for the humblest classes. The very landscape and aspects of the insular life - as Marcello Venturoli happens to says in his catalogue presentation – far from being a sterile occasion for pictorial tourism, were for Hess an extraordinary gymnasium of humanity, glory and poverty, love for the destitute, respect for life. Indeed, this is the reason why the artist’s retrospective exhibition, which is going to touch the major Italian and European towns, is going to have Sicily as its starting point. One of the major promoters of Christian Hess’ rediscovery is Professor Friedrich Schultz of the Goethe Institut, the German Institute of Culture:
“Yes, the different light of the South has been an extremely important experience, as colors become warmer, more balanced, and simpler. Unquestionably, he has been a very talented exponent of the school of Munich during the 1920’s, and here is a part of his works – nearly 60 oil paintings and watercolors covering the period from 1922 to 1938. In my opinion, this gives us an initial impression of the work of this unknown artist. We are pleased to introduce this artist for the first time not only to the Italian, but also to the Austrian and German public”.
With the recovery of Christian Hess, we mean to take up once again a subject that had been dropped thirty years ago, with a view to contributing new elements useful for an historical investigation into a period rich in excitement but also in hard times for the art world. Perhaps, Hess’ anxiety, sadness and pessimism are the bitter foreboding of that appalling disaster that World War Two was to represent for Europe: a war that, as a man of peace, the artist had always opposed and that, due to a strange trick of fate, was to turn him into an innocent victim.