Tour interview (c) Meirion Harries
It was so nice of EuroSport to turn up. The Grand Depart was a huge event. The Route Marshal had to stop the traffic on Boxhagener Strasse so I could sail up to Frankfurter Tor and onto the socialist magnificence of Karl-Marx-Allee: its eight story, wedding cake blocks looking resplendent under a bright blue sky. This boulevard was built by the GDR in the 1950s to demonstrate the benefits of socialism – large comfortable apartments for workers, and a plethora of cafes and shops. It remains an impressive sight.
At Alexanderplatz, I turned left onto Unter den Linden heading for the Brandenburg Gate – but paused at the Alte Nationalgalerie to see the Caspar David Friedrich room. They have about twenty, including Man and Woman Contemplating the Moon and The Abbey in the Oak Wood – Hamburg has The Wanderer. Friedrich is one of my favourite artists: I came across him first when we were writing The War Artists and worked at the Imperial War Museum sitting under Paul Nash’s Totes Meer – a great painting inspired by Friedrich’s The Sea of Ice (here).
In the Alte Nationalgalerie is a portrait of Caspar David holding a long stick as he works on a painting. The cane is supposed to be a maulstick, a support for his painting hand – but it is too long for this purpose. My personal view is that he held the stick up in front of his canvas to get his horizons horizontal and to position the material in his paintings on the vertical axis. So many of his paintings are really simple compositions: a horizontal line at centre or one third up or down the canvas – with the main subject often precisely centred – or on a one third line to left or right. The Wanderer, for example, is precisely centred. Simple compositions depend on perfect placement.
So now, at the Route Marshal’s request, we are using the last twenty five minutes of pedalling to go through the Tiergarten and, off route – thank you, Route Marshal – down to the Käthe Kollwitz Museum.
And tomorrow our nation’s leading etcher, Marcus Rees Roberts, will post about Kollwitz – something to really look out for.