Vast pictures shine out from the walls of old buildings in the foothills of the Bavarian Alps. This is known as “Luftmalerei”, or fresh air painting. Artist Bernhard Rieger looks after the old works as well as creating exciting accents with his own motifs
Fresco painter Bernhard Rieger
Anyone travelling to Mittenwald in the Werdenfelser region at the foot of the Karwendel will notice immediately that the place is really quite special: Large pictures adorn the walls of the old houses. For centuries, frescoes have been an integral part of the villages and towns of Upper Bavaria. They tell stories of traditional life and the deeply rooted beliefs of the inhabitants: Woodworkers and raftsmen go about their hard labours, St. Christopher carries the Baby Jesus over the river and a great celebration is underway in a merry inn scene.
Pictures from and for heaven
The art of painting frescoes is a folk-based variation of the Baroque trompe l’œil phenomenon. The images are painted onto the fresh lime render on the house wall using fresco techniques. In a chemical reaction, the colours “silicify” with the plaster, which makes the pictures waterproof and durable.
In Mittenwald and neighbouring villages, many paintings have endured to this day. To ensure that this remains the case in future, artist Bernhard Rieger is continuing the traditional art form of fresco painting. He is restoring the old paintings, some of which are more than 200 years old, and also creating new works of art.
The artist uses traditional craftsmanship to give people a sense of homeland – whether it is in the countryside, in town, in Bavaria or anywhere else. Like the fresco painters of old, he interprets stories from everyday life. “I always find out about the house, its inhabitants, its surroundings and the region and let that influence my design.” In this way, Bernhard Rieger keeps this art alive today.
The house and its inhabitants influence his design
Ancient craftsmanship meets modern art
In his showroom, “Almbiente”, Bernhard Rieger offers visitors a glimpse into his work: As well as fresco painting, he also creates canvas images in pop art style, home furnishings and decorative items from his label “Alpenterieur”. The latter is done in conjunction with his brother Wolfgang, who fashions the pieces out of old wood and historic building materials.
How did Bernhard Rieger get involved in fresco painting? It is first and foremost to do with his love of his homeland. “Even as a small child I loved frescoes and wanted to paint them when I grew up,” he explains.
While still at school, he painted and even got a number of commissions. After leaving school, he taught himself the art of fresco painting. He learned some of his specialist knowledge about the chemical processes from writings of the 18th century. The quality of his work is every bit as good as the old paintings.
Fresco painting: Bavarian tradition and regional art
“Strictly speaking, a lot of my work is more facade art,” explains Bernhard Rieger, showing a photograph of the facade of the Hotel Rheinischer Hof in neighbouring Garmisch-Partenkirchen, in which two mountaineers from different eras are climbing a mountain together.
“Traditional fresco painting used mineral pigments and tended to represent rural and religious scenes, as was common in the 18th century. However, works like the one on the Rheinischer Hof can be described as fresco painting,” he says. “It’s just that with the modern plaster and paint technology, they will not last as long as the paintings of the past.”
More information about façade painter Bernhard and his art alpeninterieur.com (only in German)
... from Bernhard
The narrow gorge of the Seinsbach River near Mittenwald has many waterfalls, creating a highly attractive route through pristine nature up to the “Vereiner Alm”.
The valleys between Mittenwald and Krün are noted for their unique undulating, grassy landscape - a relict of the last Ice Age. From there, you get an incomparable panoramic view of the surrounding mountains.
alpenwelt-karwendel.de (only in German)
In the midst of the wild Soierngruppe mountains lies the former mountain residence of King Ludwig II, where you can stay in royal splendour. The challenging ascent to the managed hut is rewarded by a dramatic mountain panorama, which fascinated the Fairy Tale King in his day.
alpenwelt-karwendel.de (only in German)