Nötsch and the Museum of the Nötscher Kreis/Nötsch Circle
The municipality of Nötsch is situated at the foot of mount Dobratsch, right at the entrance to the Gailtal valley. Its small but fine museum of the Nötsch Circle with an annual exhibition is open to the public from Spring to Autumn. Visit the nearby church too called St. Kanzian at Saak, where, in addition to a fresco by the Nötsch artist Anton Kolig, there is another fresco worth seeing: a rare depiction of a Gothic so-called "Sunday Christ". Why not make this a bike trip? It is only 27 km from Villach to Nötsch along the R3 bike trail (Gailtal-Radweg), with an option to go back by train (check the schedules!).
The "Nötsch Circle" is the name given to a group of artist friends from the first half of the 20th century who either originate from Nötsch, like Sebastian Isepp (1884-1954) and Franz Wiegele (1887-1944), or made Nötsch their second home like Anton Kolig (1886-1950) and his student Anton Mahringer (1902-1974). In 1998 a museum was established in the house where Franz Wiegele was born and it is dedicated to this "Nötsch Circle", showing different works every year.
The exhibition features all four Nötsch artists, entitled "Im Blickpunkt/In the focus. Isepp, Kolig, Wiegele, Mahringer". There is one room allocated to each of the four artists, with paintings on the walls and photos and documents in a showcase. The exhibition starts with a series of male nudes by Anton Kolig and then continues with lyric winter landscapes by Sebastian Isepp, including an embroidered one. Franz Wiegele's oeuvre is covered with numerous portraits of girls and women, while views of mount Dobratsch represent Anton Mahringer's work.
The visitor can thus compare the individual artists of the Nötsch Circle. Actually, the active, artistic years of the four painters may span quite different periods - Isepp's canvases date back to the 1910s, while Mahringer's paintings originate from the 1930's to the 1970's. Most evident, however, is the parallel stylistic evolution of Wiegele and Kolig towards expressionism in the 1920's.
Of all the Nötsch artists, Anton Kolig was certainly the most influential. He was Professor at the Württemberg Academy of Fine Arts at Stuttgart, but during the Third Reich his expressionistic style did not comply with fascist art ideals. When he was deprived of his title as a professor in 1943, he withdrew to Nötsch. Of all Nötsch artists, Kolig's oeuvre is the most multifaceted - he also created Gobelin tapestries for the Salzburg Festspielhaus and frescoes, e.g. for the Klagenfurt Landhaus (House of the Carinthian Estates), which were removed in 1938/1939, shortly after the "Anschluss".
One of his few preserved frescos can be seen near the museum, on the exterior wall of the parish church St. Kanzian at Saak, a district of Nötsch, where Kolig designed the burial place of the Michor family in 1927-29. The fresco depicts a monumental Madonna with child surrounded by four musician angels. Also, this cemetery is the resting place of Anton Kolig, Franz Wiegele and members of the Isepp family.
There is another fresco worth seeing on the exterior of this church, which shows a so-called "Sunday-Christ", framed by all kinds of tools one might think of. The depiction ought to exhort all Christians not to work on Sundays and holidays, because every tool, used on a holy day, would cause pain and suffering to Christ, equal to the tools from the Passion, like the crown of thorns or the nails of the cross.
Museum des Nötscher Kreises - Haus Wiegele 39
9611 Nötsch im Gailtal: information on opening hours, ticket prices and the current exhibition is available here (in German only).
Pfarrkirche Saak (St. Kanzian)
Saak 56, 9611 Nötsch