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Focus: Always a new story

The largest work in the collection of the Kunstmuseum Thun is the Thun Panorama exhibited in Schadaupark. Art historian Gabi Moshammer always finds new stories to tell on her themed tours of the panorama. What was the last thing that caught her eye?

The Basel artist Marquard Wocher included several themes from everyday life in the panorama he painted from 1809 to 1814. We see children playing, women watching over them, men talking in alleys, shops in dark corners and open squares as well as beautiful snapshots of Thun and the Bernese Oberland. But what was life like for women and children in 1814? Did children really spend all day playing? What roles did women and children have in society? And what did it mean to be a child back then? Although Wocher presents people from many different walks of life in his panorama, the picture tells us little about what daily life was actually like at the time. In my themed tours “First work then play – children’s lives in the 19th century” and “Cleaning and strolling – women’s everyday life”, I pursue open questions raised by the circular painting and tell stories about what might have been happening behind the closed curtains of the windows shown. What about heating and lighting, for example? Another topic that seemed of obvious interest is tourism. Wocher presented the panoramic view of Thun in a specially erected building on his own property in Basel. He was so taken with the pretty little town at the gateway to the Bernese Oberland that he wanted to share his discovery with others. As a Basel resident, you would have had to make a very long journey to reach Thun – by coach, without a train and without an e-bike.

What does the Thun-Panorama tell us about early tourism in the Bernese Oberland? Mountains, mountains, mountains: It is no coincidence that the artist devoted so much care to depicting the highlands surrounding Thun, even exaggerating what he saw. Enthralled by the view of Lake Thun with its fabulous alpine scenery, he made the mountains a little higher, a little more massive than they really are. This effect can be seen very impressively until the end of 2021 in the special exhibition Beyond the Panorama, on view in the new glass building housing the Thun-Panorama. In the show, a current view of the area is projected onto the original panorama in order to make the differences visible.

At a time when the Bernese Oberland was being discovered more and more as a holiday destination, Wocher thus acted as a “promoter” for Thun. And in this connection we might also wonder what it was like here during the colder season, back when there was no winter tourism yet? How did people stay warm and cosy when it was cold and dark outside? “Alpenglühen and Edelweiss – Oberland as a tourist destination” takes up these questions and more. The themed tours I have conceived for the Thun-Panorama attempt to tell each hidden story in detail. The observations always revolve around an object that functions as a leitmotif, something that lets us readily immerse ourselves in the circular painting and the respective theme. With these varied focuses, a much more nuanced and complex picture emerges, adding liveliness to the scenes while stimulating further reflection and discussion.


Portrait Gabi Moshammer, Foto: Anna-Lisa Schneeberger