Monumental Painting Tour

On this page we invite you to take a virtual tour through the monumental painting room of the Panorama Museum. The tour presents the entire monumental painting by Werner Tübke with over 3,000 individual figures. The overview becomes an insight because the painting can be enlarged down to the last detail, thus offering an exciting journey of discovery through the "theatrum mundi", whether before or after your visit to the Panorama Museum.



In 1973/74 the government of the GDR decides to erect a memorial to the German Peasant War on the Schlachtberg near Bad Frankenhausen. Initially, a pure battle panorama based on the model of the Moscow Borodino Museum is planned, which is to depict the Thuringian uprisings around Thomas Müntzer in May 1525 as a major event of historical significance.

Werner Tübke, rector of the Academy of Visual Arts in Leipzig, took on the commission to execute the painting in 1976. He imposes a decisive condition, namely that he is given a free hand in the conception and execution. Instead of a painting that illustrates the history of the "early bourgeois revolution in Germany" and educates the visitors in the sense of the state, he wants to focus on painting. In this way, the original concept recedes into the background; Tübke creates a picture that evades being fixed on a single statement. From 1976 to 1979 Werner Tübke devoted himself to research. He reads specialist literature on the German Peasant War and combines intellectual and artistic debate. He produced almost 150 drawings, a dozen lithographs and 10 paintings. In his preliminary studies Werner Tübke explores everyday life in the late Middle Ages and early modern times. By focusing on paintings, woodcuts and copperplate engravings from the 15th and 16th centuries, he lends his depictions a high degree of historical authenticity.

Between 1979 and 1981 Tübke worked in a large Leipzig studio on a model of the monumental painting on a scale of 1:10. The composition was created during the work on the preliminary drawing in charcoal and the background in tempera. The work is completed in resin oil colours. Already in May 1981 a commission from the client inspected the unfinished model. Two expert opinions show the fundamental approval of Tübke's work, so that the acceptance is confirmed.

Before the plates of the 1:10 version receive the final varnish in July 1982, Dietrich Wenzel and Helmut Felix Heinrichs produce a detailed contour drawing of all the pictorial motifs. For this purpose, 12 foil strips are stretched over the painting and the contours are traced with a black pencil. The contour drawing is the first phase of the transfer to the final format. After completion, the contour is developed in a contact print process on photographic paper and divided into 900 individual squares of 13.6 cm side length. A technical challenge is the preparation of the painting ground for the panorama picture. The 14-meter wide and 123-meter long canvas must be woven in one piece. Since it cannot be produced in the GDR, the Soviet textile combine in Sursk is contracted to supply it as early as 1978.

In May 1982, the canvas is cut to the necessary size by Günter Hohlstamm, a master saddler from Frankenhausen, sewn together straight as a thread and prepared for hanging on the long sides. Afterwards 54 men pull the 1.1 tonne canvas up in 18 minutes and fasten it at a height of 15 metres to a steel ring with 576 metal clamps. The lower ring of the same size is weighted down with weights. The stretched canvas, which curves inwards into the panorama hall with a bulge of 90 cm, is primed five times by specialists from Podolsk (Soviet Union) at the end of 1982. Using episcopes, the contour drawing is projected onto the screen in sections at tenfold magnification and transmitted by Tübke's assistants until May 1983. Even before the commission was accepted, it was clear to Werner Tübke that he could not possibly execute the circular painting alone because of its sheer size. In 1982/83, several graduates of the Academy of Visual Arts, but also theatre painters and restorers, were engaged to work on the outline, the transfer to the large canvas and the painterly execution. They have to acquire Tübke's painterly vocabulary so that the parts they paint cannot later be distinguished from those of the master, similar to a medieval painter's workshop. On the basis of the contour drawing, they work through sections of the picture on the scale of the final version in charcoal on cardboard in formats of up to 2 x 3 metres. To prove the required painterly qualification, individual motifs are then also executed in oil on canvas. However, it is not only craftsmanship that determines the cooperation, but also the willingness to give up one's own identity as an artist for months or even years and to completely subordinate oneself to Tübke.

A total of 15 painters have worked with Werner Tübke over time, first in Leipzig, then - from 1983 - in Bad Frankenhausen. They are Dietrich Wenzel, Helmut Felix Heinrichs, Wolfgang Böttcher, Walter Heisig (Eisler), Eberhard Lenk, Volker Pohlenz, Gert Weber, Michael Gawlick, Thomas Holle, Edgar Lange, Paul Eisel, Andreas Katzy, Matthias Steier, Helmut Symmangk and Norfried Pahler.

On August 16, 1983, Werner Tübke put the first brushstroke on the more than 1,700 square meter canvas. For the first five months he worked alone on his scaffolding on the "Last Judgement" at the top edge of the picture to the right of the rainbow. During this time he collects all the necessary work experience, which he later passes on to his "old journeymen". At the beginning of 1984, his artist colleagues gradually joined him, who helped to execute the monumental painting. On a second scaffolding they perform their "day's work" after the master has divided them up. When Werner Tübke officially finished the monumental painting on 16 October 1987 with the final signature, more than a decade had passed since he "stepped out" of the reality of the GDR. Shortly after the Panorama Museum was opened on 14 September 1989 after a second construction phase, the state that commissioned the circular painting was on the brink of collapse.

Werner Tübke

Werner Tübke was one of the most important but also most controversial painters of the second half of the 20th century. Born on 30 July 1929 in Schönebeck on the Elbe, his unusual artistic talent was recognized even during his school days. After being imprisoned by Soviet military authorities in 1946, he completed an apprenticeship as a painter and finished his school education in 1948 with the Abitur. In the same year he began studying at the Academy of Visual Arts (HGB) in Leipzig (with Elisabeth Voigt and Ernst Hassebrauk, among others). At the beginning of 1950 he changed to the study of art education and psychology at the University of Greifswald.

After his state examination, Werner Tübke returned to Leipzig in 1952, where he worked for two years as a research assistant at the Central House for Amateur Art. For a short time he worked as a freelance painter, draughtsman and book illustrator. In September 1955 he became assistant, later senior assistant, in the basic studies at the HGB. Fired in 1957 as an uncomfortable lateral thinker, he worked as a freelance artist for almost five years until his reinstatement in December 1962. In September 1964, he was appointed as a lecturer, and after renewed conflicts over Tübke's position, he was appointed full professor in 1972, taking over the chair of painting, and in 1973 became rector of the HGB.

Werner Tübke's oeuvre comprises about 6000 drawings, 500 watercolours, 350 paintings and more than 200 prints. Since the 1950s, he has produced renowned paintings such as "Five Continents" (1958), "History of the German Labour Movement" (1961), "Memoirs of Dr. jur. Schulze" (1965-67), "Working Class and Intelligence" (1970-73), "Man - the Measure of All Things" (1975), but also beach scenes (1967-71) and - in connection with his travels - pictures with Soviet and Italian motifs (from 1961 and 1971 respectively). From 1976 to 1987, Werner Tübke worked on the "Early Bourgeois Revolution in Germany", the monumental painting in Bad Frankenhausen. From 1990 to 1993 he created stage designs for the "Freischütz" and from 1993 to 1996 the eight-part winged altar for St. Salvatoris zu Clausthal-Zellerfeld. Werner Tübke died on 27 May 2004 in Leipzig.

To date more than 100 solo exhibitions of the artist have been shown in Germany, Austria, Sweden, Italy, Russia and France, in the Netherlands and the USA. Tübke has also participated in countless group exhibitions in Europe, Australia and the USA. His works are in possession of important museums and collections in Germany and beyond.