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Polling. The Place and Its Essence

The Place and Its Essence 

Helmut Mauró

In a famed 15th century diptych from Polling, a lyrical scene is illustrated in which the Bavarian Duke Tassilo III roams through the area’s surrounding forests whilst on the hunt with his entourage; there he nds the wooden crucifix that would ultimately act as the catalyst for the founding of Polling Abbey. The young Tassilo is seen not only as a skilful hunter but also as someone with a pronounced sensitivity for the celestial and the spiritual; only when taken together, rather than applied individually, do these qualify him as a ruler. Here he has found a place that he senses could act as a spiritual anchor, a central point where free- owing thoughts can take root and be bound to our impermanence, and, in turn, where new, liberated ways of thinking could be effected. Polling is distinguished by a particular “genius loci”, a spirit of place, that has drawn people throughout the ages to the locale – as testified by archaeological finds dated from as early as 6000 years ago, during the Neolithic period. Later came Celto-Romans, Alemanni, Romans, Bajuwars (the ancestors of today’s Bavarians) and with them economic forces that would lead to the increasingly significantmining of Polling’s limestone tuff. In 1830, after the drive to secularisation resulted in the dissolution of its monastery, Polling became an artists’ village: at rst came landscape painters from Munich, such as Heinrich Bürkel and Eduard Schleich the Elder, who would both eventually become known in art history as landscapists of Polling; the Ger- man romanticist painter Carl Spitzweg and Josef Dopfner, the “Chiemsee Painter”, would also count amongst the area’s visitors. American art students and painters fol- lowed, notably Frank Duveneck, whose painting, Old Town Brook, Polling, Bavaria hangs in the Cincinnati Art Museum, leading Polling to become known as the “American Village”. The children of Thomas Mann visited their mother here at her summer retreat; in their father’s novel, Doktor Faustus, the Schweigharts, then the village’s landowning family, would make an appearance, albeit under the thinly veiled name “Schweigestill”, and Polling itself would be renamed as “Pfeiffering”; in Royal High- ness Mann immortalised the “Lady Baroness”, who lived on the Schweighart Manor. With that, the history of art in Polling could have come to an irreligious, yet dignified, end, dissolving into world literature, living on as a part of a greater history of ideas and culture. This, however, did not come about. What the Hungarians in the 10th century and the Swedes seven hundred years later could not accomplish, neither could secularisation in the 19th century, namely, the destruction of the essence of the place. Nuns of the Dominican Order restored the dilapi- dated monastic buildings of the original Augustinian Canons in order to establish an “educational institute for girls”. Beyond Polling, a different part of the monastery would also become renowned, one which embodied a new creative spirit: the library hall, which became recognised in the 1970s due to the regular classical concerts that took place there. 

After he and his fellow artists Rainer Fetting, Helmut Middendorf and Salomé became well known via Berlin’s legendary Galerie am Moritzplatz as the “Young Wildes”, the Planegg-born painter Bernd Zimmer moved to Polling in 1984. Following much overseas travel and a scholarship in Rome, Zimmer was drawn back there, where to this day he has both his artistic and private homes. For one of his works, a large linocut, Zimmer even depicted the entire history of Polling – an expressive span of imagery that imparts the sense that the village’s narrative is far more than just a mere stringing along of historical occurrences. For instance, was it something entirely arbitrary that compelled the art-loving King Ludwig II to stop over in Polling, of all places, on his journey from Linderhof to Neuschwanstein? Can it be put down to sheer coincidence that people from certain places feel drawn to Polling?