The Clear World of the Blissful –
One of the Most Important Concepts of Paradise of the Early 20th Century
In his autobiography Elisàr von Kupffer wrote that he had already been inspired to create the cyclorama at the age of six. At this early age, a figure on a giant lily pad – a clear reference to the birth of Buddha – appeared to him in a dream. The first literary references to a realisation of “Klarwelt der Seiligen”, the “Parthenon Frieze of the Eros faith”, appeared in about 1920.
In 1923 sketched figures were applied to a large canvas with the aid of a raster. The first coloured parts of the final work must have been completed by 1924 and were subsequently exhibited in the gallery of von Kupffer’s friend, the painter and gallerist Clara Wagner-Grosch. In 1927 parts of the cyclorama were temporarily on display in the yet to be completed Sanctuarium. It was not until 1939 that the work could be permanently installed in the rotunda which had been designed for this very purpose.
In the late 1970s, the cyclorama was damaged by water seeping into the building. Then, to add insult to injury, the forceful removal from its supports during renovations almost resulted in the work’s complete destruction. Harald Szeemann brought the work to Monte Verità where it was installed in a wooden pavilion on a lawn belonging to the former artists’ colony. It remains there to this day. Dampness, insufficient temperature regulation, and disregard have brought the monumental cyclorama to a state of increasing decay which must be stopped as soon as possible.
The cyclorama “Die Klarwelt der Seligen” shows 84 completely naked figures with suggestions of coronas in a sequence of changing seasons and landscapes. Many of the figures are decorated with flowers, or wear ribbons around their calves. They are arranged in 33 motif groups which give the room a rhythmic structure. The middle-ground and the background are distinctly divided, and the linear composition is clearly structured: while the horizon in the background and the reclining figures in the foreground merge in a horizontal line, the trees in the middle-ground form various vertical lines. The groups of figures, on the other hand, represent an array of pyramidal linear configurations, some of which merge with one another, thus breaking up the static overall composition. Clusters of butterflies echo the outline of the groups. The result is a rhythmically defined linear composition which aims at energetically drawing the viewer of this 360° representation into the paradisiacal concept.
The mountainous landscape in the background permeates the winter and spring seasons. It is followed by an even, Mediterranean, and summery landscape with a lake and a snow-peaked mountain range in the background. In the representation of autumn the landscape becomes mountainous once more. An array of trees representing different climate zones and different stages of growth can be seen in the middle-ground alongside tree- or also snow-covered hills. The contrasting landscapes and types of vegetation, and the different colours and phenotypes represent the complexity of nature and its tropistic impact.
The homogenous light flesh tones and schematic features that are devoid of individuality give the figures a stereotypical appearance.
The 33 scenes of the cyclorama are explained in a poem. (In German and in a short version in Italian)