Werner Berg
1943 - 1952

Biography 1943 - 1952

In 1943 as well, when Erwin Bauer and Wilhelm Rüdiger wanted to show Werner Berg's paintings in an exhibition of young German artists in Weimar's Goethe Museum, his participation was prevented by the objections of a «morality» commission that had been especially consulted in Berlin. «They say that this sort of painting would not only disrupt the exhibition, but that it would also give rise to major protests,» wrote Erwin Bauer. In February 1943, Werner Berg nonetheless opened an exhibition of his «Paintings from the Arctic Ocean Front and North Carrelia» at the Klagenfurter Kunstverein. The Albertina bought a drawing and a watercolor, and the Klagenfurter Landesgalerie bought an oil painting.

While Berg was home on leave, Josef Weinheber visited the Rutarhof and portrayed his friend in an intoxicated hour. Weinheber especially valued Werner Berg for the precise remarks he made about his poetry and dedicated his last work, «Here is the Word», to the artist.

A bombardment of Elberfeld destroyed Werner Berg's parents' house. His sister Clara died in the attack. By coincidence his mother was at the Rutarhof, and from this time on she remained in Carinthia. Through this period Mauki was left alone to manage the farm, which repeatedly was the target of partisan raids. Miraculously, the studio with the artworks remained intact; the partisans would likely have used rolled up paper or canvas for torches.

At the beginning of 1944 the Galerie Welz in Vienna showed Werner Berg's landscapes from Norway and Finland. Commentaries in the press stressed the absence of military subjects and the artist's objective concentration on a cold, wide and untouched landscape, whose profound peace was seen in contrast to the cruelties of war, which had already long been readily apparent in Vienna.

In April 1945, Berg, who was still deeply affected by Edvard Munch's death, visited his sister Inger in Ekely.

At the war's end Werner Berg was a lance corporal. He was sent to an internment camp in Hamar and was not able to return to the Rutarhof until the late autumn of 1945. He was forced to leave the work that had been produced during the war with a Norwegian officer Iver Wormdal he had befriended. Later this friend sent the works back to him and also supported Berg with shipments of paint during the postwar years in which painting materials were practically unobtainable in Austria.

The artist's brother Walter Berg was shot during a prisoner revolt in a French internment camp in Andernach.

In November 1945, Werner Berg wrote an application for Austrian citizenship and initially received a residency permit for the community of Gallizien. In his efforts to obtain citizenship he was supported by the author Johannes Lindner, who held the office of cultural advisor at the time, and by his young assistant, the author Michael Guttenbrunner. Michael Guttenbrunner became an enthusiastic admirer of Berg's art and on numerous occasions visited him - often with his friend the art writer Heimo Kuchling - at the Rutarhof, where both of them also helped out with the farming work.

In 1946 Berg joined the Kärnter Kunstverein. He exchanged letters with Anton Kolig, who he visited in Nötsch in 1947. Heimo Kuchling stayed at the Rutarhof for two years before starting a teaching job at the Vienna Academy. Karl Newole, director of the provincial administrative office, became Berg's friend and supporter.

In January 1947, Werner Berg and his family were granted Austrian citizenship. On account of his earlier membership in the National Socialist Party, he was required to undergo denazification, whereby he was certified as having an «irreproachable and pronouncedly antifascist political disposition.» The fact that he was the only Carinthian painter represented in the «Degenerate Art» exhibition as well as his unflagging artistic preoccupation with the Slovene minority during the Nazi era received special mention.

The provincial government invited Werner Berg to participate in the drafting of a new cultural policy program. Werner Berg joined the Art Club and was represented by woodcuts in the group's first exhibition at Vienna's Neue Galerie.

In November 1947 the Galerie Kleinmayr in Klagenfurt presented an exhibition of Werner Berg's work that was highly acclaimed and attracted many visitors. During the same month, Berg made a radio address entitled «Lower Carinthia, My Adopted Homeland» - a pledge of satisfaction with his situation on the Rutarhof.

Together with Heimo Kuchling, Werner Berg visited the 1948 Biennial in Venice. After long years of involuntary isolation this was an impressive renewed encounter with the works of the great modern painters.

Werner Berg's mother died at the Rutarhof in 1949. In January 1949, Werner Berg exhibited at the Galerie Welz (Würthle) in Vienna. The painter Kurt Moldovan expressed his enthusiasm about the exhibition: «Since the public is left with no opportunity for continuing the artworks’ form or content, with which it could escape from this innocent and at the same time ominous pictorial atmosphere, it is left with only the existential world of the farmer, against which it rebels - this is precisely what impresses me the most.» Viktor Matejka, the Viennese city councilor in charge of culture, supported Berg by purchasing paintings, which he also showed to Oskar Kokoschka, who expressed his approval of the canvases. Young painters like Maria Lassnig, Arnulf Rainer, Herbert Breiter and the graphic artist Paul Flora visited the Rutarhof. They saw in Werner Berg a «model in which life, work and persona form a unity,» as Arnulf Rainer admiringly wrote.

In 1950 Werner Berg was included in the Venice Biennial.

At a conference of contemporary authors and composers in St. Veit, Berg met the poet Christine Lavant and was impressed by her poems and her delicate, expressive appearance, which due to the headscarves and shawls she favored resembled the praying Slovene women of his paintings. This was the beginning of a mutual love. Berg invited Christine Lavant to the Rutarhof, where his portraits of her were created in 1951 - seven oil paintings, five woodcuts and three large drawings. He openly confessed to his wife Mauki the artistic and intellectual necessity of his attachment to the poet.

Werner Berg met Adele Kaindl, a division head at the Ministry of Education. She showed great interest in his work and supported him with purchases for the ministry in following years.

In May 1951 Berg's daughter Ursula married Heimo Kuchling. As was the case in all of the children's marriages, separation from the father was not easy.

Years 1953 - 1961