Biography 1953 - 1961
In 1953 Werner Berg participated in an exhibition of Carinthian artists at the Secession in Vienna. He refused a commission to create a mural in Cologne, and he reacted to all further requests similarly, stating that «he was only accustomed to creating form from the circumstances of his life, from inner connection and a powerful spiritual moment.»
An exhibition in Vienna was planned for Werner Berg's fiftieth birthday, but due to objections raised by Herbert Boeckl, who had great influence in artistic circles and displayed a dismissive attitude toward Berg, it did not take place. Nevertheless, the Klagenfurter Künstlerhaus presented a major exhibition. Many Carinthians first took notice of the artist's work on this occasion, among them future collectors, who would later ensure Berg's independence through their purchases.
During this period Werner Berg's relationship with Christine Lavant reached its last highpoint and also its conclusion.
In January 1955, Werner Berg attempted to end his life by taking an overdose of strong sleeping pills. It was possible to save him in a dramatic rescue operation, but he remained unconscious for five days, contracted pneumonia on the intensive care station and also was infected with hepatitis due to the reuse of hypodermic needles, which was a common practice at the time. The latter illness confined him to a hospital bed for several months. In autumn he was again hospitalized due to complications arising from the hepatitis, and thus he spent a total of eight months in the Klagenfurt Hospital. In the end he succeeded in getting through this crisis and dealt with it in a series of hospital images. The writings of the philosopher and mystic Simone Weill became a revelation to him during his recovery; he referred to her as his «saint». Berg's friends and supporters gave him new courage and also were active in giving him assistance. Public and private purchases mitigated the major economic difficulties faced by the farm. The collectors of his paintings, who were among his truest friends, gave him the certainty that the people of the place where he had chosen to live accepted him and his art.
1956 was a year in which numerous important woodcuts were created. During the summer Alfred Kubin visited the Rutarhof, commenting that this visit made the strongest artistic impression on him of any postwar experience. In November the Österreichische Galerie Belvedere presented Werner Berg in a solo exhibition. Here the art critic Wieland Schmied took notice of Berg, and during the following winter he visited the Rutarhof.
In 1957 exhibitions of Werner Berg's work were held at the Austrian Culture Institute in Paris and at the Modern Gallery in Ljubljana. Berg visited Gabriele Münter in Murnau.
1958 was Werner Berg's most intensive year of production to date. While in earlier years he had often not had time to paint for weeks on end due to his self-imposed farmer's life, he was now freed from agricultural work by his son Veit and his youngest daughter Annette, both of whose desires to obtain an education were thwarted in the process.
Preparations for an exhibition shown at the Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus in Munich were an interruption in what became for the most part a period of unencumbered artistic creation. Thereafter Werner Berg withdrew from the exhibition world, which was also not exactly well disposed to his art. He was consistent in his rejection of all potential commissions.
Since 1957 Berg had been making yearly visits to Überlingen on Lake Constance for the cure. In 1961 he and his son visited Max Frisch and Ingeborg Bachmann in Zurich, where together they say a performance of Frisch's play «Andorra».