Zum schwarzen Ferkel

Gustav Türkes Weinhandlung und Probierstube (Gustav Türkes Wine Shop and Wine Tasting Bar) was situated on the corner of Unter den Linden and Neue Wilhelmstrasse. When August Strindberg arrived in Berlin in the fall of 1892, it didn’t take long before he realised that the wine bar would be his favoured watering hole in the city and he re-named the it Zum schwarzen Ferkel (The Black Piglet) after a wineskin that hung over the entrance, which, according to him, looked like a black piglet. The new nickname was even approved by the owner!

With Strindberg as its leading figure, the venerable old pub soon became the meeting place for a circle of Scandinavian and German artists, among them Edvard Munch. In the posthumously published novel Klostret (written in 1898, published 1966) (The Cloister, 1969) Strindberg described the pub and its atmosphere: “Everything could be found here, food and drink, a telephone, messengers to send on errands in the city, writing supplies, so that many conducted their business from here, even literary activities. Only actors, artists and authors congregated here and everyone was more or less acquainted.” Similar descriptions are found in a number of other memoirs that are full of anecdotes about incidents, intrigues and love affairs from the pub’s artistic milieu.

Earlier in the century, the long-established wine bar had been frequented by E.T.A. Hoffmann, Robert Schumann and Heinrich Heine. During the early 1890s the circle consisted of the Finnish writer Adolf Paul, the German poet Richard Dehmel, the medical doctor and surgeon Carl Ludwig Schleich and the Polish author Stanislaw Przybyszewski. Other Scandinavians who gradually arrived in Berlin soon joined the circle: the Norwegian writers Gunnar Heiberg, Axel Maurer, Gabriel Finne and Sigbjørn Obstfelder, artists such as Christian and Oda Krohg, Gustav Vigeland, the Finnish painter Axel Gallén and the Danish poet Holger Drachmann. The artist milieu consisted for the most part of men, but included a few women as well – Oda Krohg as already mentioned, the Swedish author Laura Marholm and the daughter of a medical doctor from Kongsvinger, Dagny Juell, a figure who has attained almost mythical status in the numerous memoirs from this period. Dagny Juell had arrived in the city to study music. She soon became a central focus of the milieu and was married to Stanislaw Przybyszewski in 1893.

Edvard Munch arrived in the German capital in October 1892. After the scandalous press coverage surrounding the precipitous closing of his exhibition in Verein Berliner Künstler, he became an important member of the group. In Klostret Strindberg writes: “It was here the émigré Norwegians settled down in the beginning of this century’s last decade. A strange herd of talented individuals who sought recognition, understanding and a livelihood.” Ola Hansson, Strindberg and Przybyszewski were well acquainted with the philosophy of Nietzsche and the other members of the group were keenly interested in the newest ideas and trends in literature and art, in symbolism and the aesthetics of decadence, in the latest discoveries and ideas in the natural sciences or in the more esoteric movements and phenomena. The artistic milieu in Zum Schwarzen Ferkel, where one could exchange new and constructive impulses, was extremely important for the later artistic development of many of its members; for August Strindberg, for Stanislaw Przybyszewski and for Edvard Munch.