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Birgit Sewekow: Gretchen and the beautiful Helen

Illustrations for Goethe's world famous drama Faust


It is not only the tender girl „Gretchen" who plays a central part in Goethe's Faust. Also figures from the antiquity, among them the legendary „beautiful Helen" surface. The picture by Birgit Sewekow shows Helen in front the the palace of Menelaos of Sparta.

Copyright Foto Marco-RV/Bonn



Berlin/New York (bpb) The shy Gretchen and the beautiful Helena of the antiquity both play equally large roles in Goethe's world known drama Faust. The German painter Birgit Sewekow has published 23 illustrations from her Faust Cyclus in a representative book. The publisher is the European Art Foundation Berlin, which already back in the Goethe Year 2007 exhibited a number of paintings in the Museum of European Art at the Noervenich Castle near Cologne, Germany.

The book illustrations regarding Faust and the central female figure, Gretchen, were created in the years 2007 and 2008. Birgit Sewekow belongs to the Alexander Order Pour le Mérite for Art and Science. She has developed into a multi-talent: in addition to painting, she also sculpts and writes articles on various subjects of art history.

The historian Prof. Dr. Hermann Schäfer (Bonn/Berlin) especially valued the fact that the painter has turned to a significant work of world literature: "The paintings of the artist Birgit Sewekow grab our attention with their magnificance of color, show their lightness of the artistic ability and enchant the observer".

And consul B. John Zavrel from the Museum of European Art in New York commented on the project: "The classical demand on art is beauty, a spiritual depth and intellectual substance. With the Faust illustrations by Birgit Sewekow, profound literary knowledge also comes into play. The painter has solved in a masterful way the topic and its depiction."


Title page of „Illustrations of Faust". This painting of the painter Birgit Sewekow shows the timid Gretchen with lowered head, and next to her the powerful Faust. Published in a small, limited edition. For our article, see Birgit Sewekow: Gretchen and the beautiful Helen ...

Copyright Foto Marco-RV/Bonn


Birgit Sewekow writes about her Faust Cyclus: "Goethe's Faust drama in its two parts in the result of virtually a life-long preoccupation of the poet with the Faust legend. The despair over the inadequacy of book knowledge, as well as themes of guilt and love were the themes of his youth. In his mature years, he became interested in the classical beauty of Helen and the general picture of man, whom the aged poet depicted as a manipulating, domineering Faust and the secret of the archetypal, creative process."

The art museum at the Noervenich Castle has the entire Faust Cyclus available for travelling exhibitions. Interested galleries, institutions and theaters can contact the museum for more information at info@europaeische-kultur-stiftung.org . The illustrated Faust publication ihas been printed in a limited edition. It can be ordered from the European Art Foundation Berlin.



© PROMETHEUS 141/2009

PROMETHEUS, Internet Bulletin - News, Politics, Art and Science. Nr. 141, March, 2009