August Endell: in praise of bark

I recently read a quotation by August Endell (1871 – 1925), a German self-taught architect who designed in the era of Jugendstil, or, in English and French, Art Nouveau.  Here’s what he said in Berliner Architekturwelt, volume 4, 1902:

“I believe it is not generally known that, in the bark of our own native trees, we possess the most rapturous symphonies of colour that a painter could ever dream of.  After rain, for example, when the colours are luminous and fresh, the richest and most wonderful motifs are to be found there.  You need to go right up to the trunk and look hard at small areas the size of your palm.  Strong colours alternate one with another.  Velvety violet,Young plum tree

fiery yellowy-red,yellow-red bark

grey with a blue shimmer,Willow-leaf Hakea barkbright green,

Maple bark

– the widest possible range of colour nuances are found in a rich spectrum in the boldest contrasts.  Only when you have studied the colours of bark close up can you appreciate why tree trunks have such luminous colours from afar.

Eucalypt forest, Jervis Bay

The individual colours are garish and unbroken, but because they lie so close together in such small blotches, they tone each other down without losing their effect.”

August Endell’s first commission was for the Hof-Atelier Elvira, a photography studio in Munich, built and decorated in 1896-97.  The interior decor was highly individual, even bizarre, but partly reflected Endell’s belief that ‘the most wonderful motifs’ are to be found on tree bark.  Look, for example, at the studio staircase, to see how the organic pattern resembles the cracks in bark:

You can guess from the age of the staircase photo that the building no longer exists.  It was destroyed by Allied bombing in 1944.  Hooray for photos!

In 1896, in an article about his theory of art, Endell said:

“Someone who has never been sent into raptures by the exquisite swaying of a blade of grass, the wondrous implacability of a thistle leaf, the austere youthfulness of burgeoning leaf buds, who has never been seized and touched to the core of his being by the massive shape of a tree root, the imperturbable strength of split bark, the slender suppleness of the trunk of a birch, the profound peacefulness of an expanse of leaves, knows nothing of the beauty of forms.”

(Cited in Art Nouveau, Gabriele Fahr-Becker)

The year 2014 is all but over;  I want to finish it on a beautiful note.  In an antique shop at Jervis Bay, in a holiday mood, I found Fahr-Becker’s Art Nouveau still sealed in protective plastic yet offered for a small price.  I took it back to the beach house, peeled away its covering and flicked through the large glossy pages.  At around the middle of the book, 232 pages in, the Endell quotation on bark brought me to a halt.  I didn’t turn the page, but closed the book.  I didn’t want to forget his urging to ‘go right up to the trunk’ of trees, and look hard.  I urge you to do it, too.

Happy New Year!

I wish you wonderful days in 2015.



One trip EVERY month: December

It’s early days in December, but I’ve already taken a trip!  Jervis Bay was the destination.

A friend who has a beach house there (and who loves the bay for its small population) says it’s a really awful place;  she tells everyone not to go there.  Of course, no one takes her advice.  Jervis Bay has a number of isolated beaches, clean and white, with turquoise waters and plenty of fun water activities.  It’s not awful, it’s awesome!  See if you agree.

Huskisson, Jervis Bay
Huskisson, Jervis Bay NSW

Huskisson is at about the centre of the bay shore and is the central shopping area, though there’s not a lot except cafés and restaurants, swimwear and souvenir shops.  Across the street from the shops is this green landscaped park that slopes down to the water.  I sat in the shade of the trees, staring out to sea, wishing it was my back yard.

Hole in the Wall, Jervis Bay, Boodooree National Park
Hole in the Wall, Jervis Bay, Booderee National Park

Hole in the Wall is the name of this spot in the National Park at Jervis Bay.  The rock is composed of sand grains solidly stuck together.  As I sat in the gap rubbing at the sand walls I had a sense of reshaping nature, brushing the grains off the rock as easily as I brush them from my toes.  Yet it’s strong enough to climb on, which my son did, declaring himself champion of the wall.

Cudmirrah Beach, Sussex Inlet

The water in the bay is calm with small waves, but down around the southern peninsula, on the ocean side at Sussex Inlet, the waves are surfable.  If you look closely you’ll see my son waiting for a wave.

Boom net behind Port Venture
Boom net behind Port Venture boat

He enjoyed a number of water activities, especially lying in the boom net as it was dragged behind the tour boat.

Kayaking, Jervis Bay
Kayaking, Jervis Bay

…and the more peaceful pleasure of kayaking with his dad.

Dolphins, Jervis Bay
Dolphins, Jervis Bay

In the tour boat we were on dolphin watch, and we saw plenty, swimming around and under the boat and even riding the wash.  The dolphins are free to swim wherever they like and easily cover the whole bay, which I’ve read is 124 square kilometres in size.  Huge.  Many times larger than Sydney Harbour.  The dolphins are never fed by humans or made to entertain us in any way, unlike dolphins in marine theme parks.  The captain announced his firm belief that dolphins should not be kept in captivity, and I can see why he’s so passionate about it.  He frequently stopped the boat so we could watch them swimming and leaping out of the water for a synchronised breath.

Cliffs, Beecroft Peninsula, Jervis Bay

At the mouth of the bay, cliffs rise from a turquoise sea, their vertical faces and horizontal layers tempting the captain to pull in closer so we can marvel at the geology.  At the base of the cliffs are large cavernous tunnels, magnets for divers.  Here’s one where you can swim in one doorway and out another.

Keep clear 5NM - live firing Honeymoon Bay NSW
Keep clear 5NM – live firing, Honeymoon Bay NSW

If you don’t like deep water diving you could try a shore dive at Honeymoon Bay (a bay within the bay), but not when this red sign has been planted in the sand:  ‘Range is active.  Live firing.  Do not land’ …  Much of the Beecroft Peninsula is occupied by the Royal Australian Navy and is regularly (but not during school holidays) used for weapons training.  Of course, the kangaroos can’t read, so they’re oblivious to the danger as they lie back on the beach.  Zoom in and you’ll see one taking it easy on the soft sand.

I was amused by things that women do on Jervis Bay beaches;  I saw things I haven’t seen on beaches further south.  One, a bikinied Italian, hatted her head and wrapped her shoulders with her shirt, obviously wanting to keep the sun off the top but not the bottom!  She laid out her towel in front of me on the sand, bending over from the waist.  I didn’t want to see that.  There was another, a bikinied Spaniard, who was also exposing a round bump.  It’s rare to see an advanced naked pregnancy on our beaches.  Probably no coincidence that both women were Mediterranean.  And then, just when I was thinking, well at least Australians are predictable if reserved, I stumbled across eight boxing-gloved women punching each other beside the calm waters of the bay.

I often wonder as I’m people-watching, snapping photos, whether anyone ever catches me doing something unusual, a bit crazy, and … click!  Pffft.  Not likely.

Thanks Marianne for the prompt to take a trip EVERY month.  I’ve done it, twelve months in a row.  And thanks to all of you who’ve read my trippy posts this year.

Jervis Bay.  Let’s make it the capital.