Landed Gentry | 2008
Gelatin silver print
80 × 69 cm
Fitting in perfectly with Spitzweg’s depictions of unsuccessful recreational hunters and overwhelmed “Schoolmasters” is Erwin Wurm’s photographic work Landed Gentry (2008), showing a smartly dressed gentleman swollen with pride posing in hunting gear. Not bred as a hunting dog, his canine friend is standing at his feet as an apparent counterpart to the rug made from a predator’s skin. The term “landed gentry” dates back to 16th century England and denotes untitled landowning nobility. The term was later extended to include the upper middle classes and the “lower” nobility. Members of the landed gentry made their living from leasing their land and held positions for prestige only.
The (leisure time) activities depicted in Spitzweg’s paintings as well as in Wurm’s Landed Gentry are not pursued by the works’ protagonists in order to survive but purely for representational reasons. A distinguished pose is also assumed by Wurm’s elegantly dressed sculpture Cajetan (2009), which is presented in the exhibition as a counterpart to the “hobby hunter” in the photograph. In this work, Wurm’s sarcasm is expressed in the diminution of the body measurements and the lack of head, arms and hands. The latter are merely hinted at through bulges in the trouser pockets. Like the open position of the feet, which implies a confident stance, they too are presented as “empty gestures” of representation.