5 Nostalgia in painting
Knowledge and found objects spread quickly over the whole world
and with them also imaginative decorations of the pile dwellers.
Above all, paintings clearly showed the yearnings of the people,
that arose from the new cultural heritage.
People turned to the past
because they could find answers to existential fears of the present
and future in imperialism at the end of the 19th century.
These fears could be served by all art movements.
Without written sources and information about the richness of the finds,
there were hardly any limits to an imaginative interpretation of the objects.
Wooden houses on pile-supported platforms in clear water,
snow-capped mountains and idyllic alpine landscape in the background.
Exotic village life with warrior-like, half-naked men
and scantily clad women, all hard at work or fishing.
Even their small children are armed with spears
and are reminiscent of nude child sculptures in churches.
This is what typical postcard motifs looked like, but for which there is no evidence
and therefore no connection to real conditions.
The new theme offered artists a great deal of freedom.
They broke with established conventions and created "impure" compositions:
Genre painting, which was considered vulgar, enriched with erotic depictions,
rose thanks to apparently authentic pile-dwelling motifs
into the high rank of respected historical painting.
This postcard aesthetics created a pictorial language that was difficult to maintain unchanged,
that propagated an idealized pile-dwelling myth
and solidified the values people associated with it.
Although nearly half of all pile-dwelling paintings were created in the 1890s,
this form of historical painting quickly died out again,
simultaneously with the 19th century.