Dominik von König
Situated on the edge of vast moss, bordered in the south by a range of hills with highmountains in the background, lies Polling. At first, only the mighty tower of the abbey church canbe seen as one travels toward Polling, a work of the Renaissance artist Hans Krumpper, and thereafter the square of the abbey appears.
Polling has been a monastic village for more than 1000 years. The abbey has influenced the appearance of the village, just as the Augustinian canon influenced the lives of the villageinhabitants during the canon’s approximately 800-year presence there. It was especially in the 18th century that Polling had a cosmopolitan atmosphere, which was quite exceptional. The scholarly exchange of the abbey with other countries turned Polling into an educational centre of European standing.
Culture came to the countryside through local monasteries and Polling was no different in this regard: Agri-Culture, the crafts, the arts, and lastly sciences.
The church is consecrated with the oldest work of art, the Holy Cross. The cross-beam made ofspruce was felled around the year 1000 and the crucified late Romanesque figure painted on horses’ skin demonstrates Byzantine influence. This cross stands at the beginning of all theworks that master builders, painters, sculptors and artisans created for the monastery over the centuries to the glory of God. Some elements, especially the abbey church and the abbey build- ings with the late Baroque library hall, remained preserved even after the dissolution of the Bavarian monasteries in 1803. Other items can be found in the great Munich museums. In particular, it was the library itself, then one of the largest in Germany, which saw many of its best pieces transferred to today’s Bayerische Staatsbibliothek (Bavarian state library).
Secularisation arrived in the year 1803 and with that the arts too were secularised, since the church no longer commissioned music and the visual arts. The furnishings of the churches, the biblical stories, the pious legends and the crafts were no longer needed. An art market developed for which other themes were in demand. Landscape painting sold especially well. Artists spent time in the countryside so they had an actual view of nature in front of them while painting. Painters appreciated Polling, among other places. As we know mainly from the register of the old still existing guesthouse “Alte Klosterwirtschaft”, well over 400 artists visited Polling between 1830 and 1900 – many of whom repeatedly and for a longer time. Here the high proportion of foreign painters is surprising: English, Swiss, and in particular 90 Americans. Frank Duveneck (1848-1919), a man with talent and charisma, surrounded himself with a group of countrymen in Polling, the “Duveneck Boys”, during the holidays of the Munich Academy. They stayed with farmers and used the empty abbey rooms as studios. Polling was known as the ‘American village’ in the 1870s. Today, many of their paintings belong to collections of major American museums. Testimonies to their art can be seen with Polling Watergirl by Joseph DeCamp and Duveneck’s first painting in Polling, yet this rich artistic life that reigned for half a century left its mark in the Museum Polling too, with many more views on offer of the village and its surrounding area by renowned painters of the Munich School. In around 1900, the chapter of the painters’ village community of Polling ended. However, the prevailing artistic character has not left Polling: it remains a place of artistic activity and art education. Julia Mann chose Polling as her place of residence for many years and it was through her son Thomas that Polling entered world literature with Doctor Faustus. Her son Victor, living in Polling with her, made the place of moving significance in his literary work “Wir waren fünf”.
The visual arts still have a home in Polling today, partly of international standing. The painter Bernd Zimmer lives in the former horse stable of the abbey for a long time. He encouraged his friend the sculptor Nikolaus Gerhardt to create a monument to the native tuff stone from which the monastery, the church and all the older houses of the community are built. The two hewn tuff blocks crown, casually and yet strikingly, the Ammer Mountain – the highest point of the village. In the Regenbogenstadl, originally an agricultural purpose building, works by La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela can be experienced. The American artist couple have been developing their Dream House as a large on-going project for the presentation of sound and light since 1962. The permanent installation of Dream House is only available in New York and Polling, the latter of which has exhibited it since 2001. The Fischerbau, originally a Märzen beer cellar built by the great baroque master builder Johann Michael Fischer, is not just an exhibit in itself, but is given life through changing cultural events such as an installation by Dan Flavin in 2016. The wealth of cultural achievements and activities distinguishes Polling from comparable municipalities in the area. Polling has maintained its momentum till today by being inspired by far-sighted people who have always been able to bring out the extraordinary.