My project “My European Faces” is now concluded. I painted 56 portraits in 69 days. It was a very intense experience. I loved learning so much about so many wonderful people that contributed in some way to European history. Painting these portraits connected me closer to Europe, and I hope that it brought the idea that “Europe wishes to be one”, as Nietzsche put it, closer to some of you too.
In the back of my head, I have lots of plans for future painting projects. And I look very much forward to share them with you.
“We good Europeans”, are what Friedrich Nietzsche calls the “Europeans of the day after tomorrow”. He gave up his German passport, and lived from then on as a stateless wanderer. In his book “Beyond Good and Evil”, he writes: “… the most unmistakable signs that EUROPE WISHES TO BE ONE, are now overlooked, or arbitrarily and falsely misinterpreted. With all the more profound and large-minded men of this century, the real general tendency of the mysterious labour of their souls was to prepare the way for that new SYNTHESIS, and tentatively to anticipate the European of the future.”
William Shakespeare’s plays are located in all kinds of European countries, his characters are pan-European; he shows himself to be critical of the corruptive forces of greed and power, and a truly humanitarian person. In his last play, Shakespeare let’s Thomas More plead for immigrants in need: Whither would you go? What country, by the nature of your error, should give you harbour? Go you to France or Flanders, to any German province, Spain or Portugal, nay, anywhere that not adheres to England: Why, you must needs be strangers.”
Erna Solberg is Prime Minister of Norway. Unlike its Scandinavian neighbors, Norway voted against joining the EU, and is now, like Switzerland, part of the EEA. When the British Brexit Party imagined a “Norway Plus” deal, Erna Solberg questioned why Brexiteers would want a Norwegian deal, in which they had to abide by all EU duties, such as free movement, but give up all influence. She also stated that she believes Great Britain would not be happy with such a deal, and that they can’t cherry pick the freedoms that they’d want to abide by. She’s Norwegian & European.
Zadie Smith is a British novelist and Professor of creative writing at New York University. She thinks that young people are loosing their opportunity to move something in the world over being sucked into social media. She also thinks that the Brexit voters and the British government failed this young, passive and helpless generation. She is Jamaican, British & European.
According to a survey of the University of Winchester, 46% of English would not consider their future king, HRH Prince Charles, an Englishman, because one of his parents is not born in England. In fact, Prince Philipp, his father, was born Prince of Denmark and Greece. Charles, the Prince of Wales is therefore British, Danish, Greek & European.
Gymnast Johanna Quaas, is 91 years old and still competes. Her favorite part is the parallel bars. As a teenager, she dreamed of going to the Olympics, but the second world war destroyed that dream. After the war, she had to live under the communist spy state of the DDR, but she always trained youngsters in gymnastics. Look how, at 91 years, her smile is still so sweet & happy, like that of a child! She’s German & European.
Biologist Charles Darwin formulated perhaps the greatest theory of all times in his book: “The Origin Of the Species.” Why? Because it means that all living beings are related. We are all family. He was British & European.
Pippilotta Rollgardinia Victualia Peppermint Longstocking, her monkey Mr. Nilsson, her horse & a suitcase full of gold doubloons move into the abandoned Villa Villekulla, She befriends two children in the neighborhood, and together they experience many adventures. Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren was first published in 1945, the year in which World War II ended. Since then, it has been translated in 64 languages and has united children worldwide in their common needs for authenticity, freedom, creativity and competence. Pippi is Swedish & European.
Amal Alamuddin Clooney is a International Human Rights lawyer of the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court in The Hague, a London Barrister, New York attorney, special envoy for Human Rights of the U.N., and special envoy on media freedom of the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office. She also is a law professor for Human Rights at Columbia law school & several other universities, and is actively engaged in many charitable activities. While her mother almost lost her during a difficult pregnancy during the Lebanese civil war, she became one of the foremost role-models for women and girls worldwide. She is Lebanese, British & European
While electrical engineer and inventor Nicola Tesla was a formidable thinker and futurist, he was taken advantage of many times. Did you know that he never finished his university studies, but gambled instead with the semester fees? Did you know that after Edison fired him, he used to work odd jobs as a poor emigrant in New York City? He was Serbian, Croatian & European.
Former Danish PM Helle Thorning-Schmidt is married to The Honorable Stephen Kinnock, a British diplomat & MP. Although she used to be an European politician in Brussels, he is supporting a British Brexit. Her most favorite book is Jane Austen’s “Pride & Prejudice”, She is Danish, British & European.
Dr. Elena Keidosiute is a cultural attache and postdoctoral fellow. She first studied in Lithuania and Great Britain, followed by a postdoctoral fellowship at NYU about Jewish conversions to catholicism. In the meantime, she became a cultural attache for the Lithuanian Embassy in Tel Aviv and organized a music festival. She is Lithuanian & European.
Mathematician and Kryptoanalyst Alan Turing OBE broke the enigma code machine of the Germans in WWII. Without him, the Nazi Third Reich might have completely sullied and destroyed Europe in the meantime. However, after the war, Great Britain, his country, tortured him with chemical castration, because he was homosexual. He killed himself two years later. While the British PM Gordon Brown finally apologized for Britains base acts in 2009, a petition for pardon of Alan Turing was still denied in 2011, and only granted in 2013. This genius, brave, and mistreated hero was British & European.
When Catherine Cornaro, the last queen of the kingdom of Cyprus, abdicated & left her people in tears, the last state of the crusaders became a Venetian colony. She was a Cypriot, Italian & European
While Sir Ken Adams, OBE, was famous for his designs of the iconic James Bond movie sets, it is less well know that he was one of only three German born RAF pilots in WWII, called “Heinie the tank-buster.” Before he became a pilot, however, he is was entrusted with the design and building of air shelters, which clearly influenced his stark esthetics. He was Jewish, German, British & European.
Schoolteacher Mary Harris Jones lost her husband, all of her four children, and her business. When she had nothing left to loose, she started to “fight like hell for the living.” She was so successful as a community organizer and orator that, in 1902, she was named “the most dangerous woman in America.” At a time when labour conditions were dysmal, she stood up for miners and children in sweat shops. She was Irish, American & European.
Mikki Kaurismäki and his brother Aki are Finnlands most popular movie makers. They showed us and Jim Jarmush how cool “weird” can be. In their road movie, “Leningrad Cowboys go America”, a weird Finnish rock band comes to New York to make it big, then travels to Mexico to perform at a wedding. Many weird things happen on the way… Mikki is Finnish & European
Sir Isaiah Berlin OM CBE FBA, was a social and political theorist, philosopher and historian of ideas. The Independent stated that “Berlin was often described, especially in his old age, by means of superlatives: the world’s greatest talker, the century’s most inspired reader, one of the finest minds of our time … there is no doubt that he showed in more than one direction the unexpectedly large possibilities open to us at the top end of the range of human potential.” While Isaiah Berlin may have chosen during his life time to not engage in political activism or deal with his identity, he couldn’t choose being Jewish, Lativian, British & European.
Eilonwy grew up with her parents, fans of fantasy novels, on a self-sufficient sheep farm in Killarney. When she started to study in Dublin, the Great Goddess told her to follow a different path. Hence, Eilonwy obtained a certification in witchcraft in Germany, and now offers intuitive consulting for a living. She holds seances, and performs ritual purifications.
As a teenager, Marguerite Brunet aka Mademoiselle Montansier, ran away from her convent school with a traveling troupe of actors to the Caribbean, and established a dress shop in the French colony of Saint-Domingue. After returning to Paris, she opened up a gambling house that was frequented by the Jeunesse D’Ore. Later, she had a theater in Versailles, and managed to secure the exclusive right to perform at masques and balls in the Palace of Versailles by queen Marie Antoinette, personally. However, even after the revolution, she managed to switch sides, opening another theatre in Paris under the arcades of the Palais Royal. This crafty entrepreneuse was French and European.
Using books, movies and his venture “The School of Life” in London, writer Alain de Botton teaches that philosophy is—and always was— intended as a self-help tool. Philosophy, he claims, should be applied, so that we live a happier or better life. Judging from his wild popularity among our geeky brothers and sisters, he is succeeding. He is Swiss, British and European.
When Clara Rockmore, a child prodigy violinist, was not able to play the violin anymore, she turned to the predecessor of the synthesizer: The Theremin. The Russian inventor Léon Theremin optimized his creation with her input, and even dedicated it to her. Her self control and ability to express emotion on this first electronic instrument remain unsurpassed. She was Lithuanian, American and European.
Jóhanndínais is an introverted, gracious person. When others trust her with their secrets, she will listen with close attention. She is graceful, sings like an angel, cooks, bakes, and she is funny! All her clothes, she sews by hand — embroiders, and drapes them in haute couture technique. She doesn’t own much, but what ever she touches, she applies herself with great care and taste in order to be respectful of her idea of beauty. She is Icelandic and European.
István Kakas lived on the small, picturesque Ha’penny Bridge in Bath, which he often swept with his broom and decorated with flowers. The former military vet and chef was well known amongst residents for his uplifting spirit and cheery personality. When he rescued a little girl and her father from the river with his broom, he became a Bath celebrity, and received a citizen award for his heroism. The community of Bath mourned his death of Leukemia in 2018. He was Hungarian and European.
While mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kožená received a rigorous opera voice training in the communist Czechoslovakia of her youth, it is her pure, mellifluous voice that fascinates opera lovers all over the world. And while she is half of a power couple with British conductor Sir Simon Rattle, her superb voice, wide range of musical repertoire, and nuanced interpretations make her a musical force in her own right. She he’s Czeck, British & European.
In 2018, Major General Alenka Ermenc became the new Chief of the General Staff of the Slovenian military, because she had proven her credibility. She is the first top general of any European country as well as NATO, and it is her task to turn things around. People like Alenka, whose merit and commitment can be trusted, serve Europe and Britain alike. She is Slovenian, and European.
Once climate activist Greta Thunberg, 16 years old, realized that actually her parents’ generation does not really care what happens to this planet and future generations, she could neither sleep nor speak anymore. The gross negligence and lack of care of the people responsible, left her only one choice: She had to stand up against climate change herself. Will her movement and her generation have a future? We will see…..
A walking cliché of an Englishman, writer, actor, TV presenter and activist Stephen Fry, is eccentric and witty. Still, the polymath is also uncannily open and sincere about his underlying mental and social issues, such as bipolar disorder, a stint in prison, and life as an openly gay public person. We learn how his fear of failure drove him to surpass himself, and, eventually, to succeed. This sharp-witted man with the kind eyes is British, and staunchly European.
In 1962, Tokjo art student Nojiri Michiko, moved to Rome to study painting. Instead, she went on a life-long quest to teach Europeans “Chado”, the Zen art of preparing and drinking tea in tranquility. For more than 50 years, she has taught students from Italy, Belgium, France, Germany, Romania and Switzerland her deep knowledge about the “Way of Tea.”
The Roman god Saturnus is a metaphor for the ancients’ understanding of time. He is master over the seasons, death and rebirth, he gives bounty and he destroys life. His birthday was celebrated on December 25th, at the winter solstice, that inflection point after which the light would return. Christus, whose birth is celebrated on December 25th as well, who died and was reborn on Easter, is a modern replacement of the eternally existing god of creation. Saturnus is Roman, Italian, and European.
Alexandra David Néel, a freedom loving Orientalist, was celebrated as opera singer in Hanoi, Athens, and Tunis, before traveling for ten years to India to improve her knowledge of Buddhism, There, she met with the Dalai Lama and by 1916, had traveled to Tibet as the first western person to do so. The Panchen Lama, second in authority only to the Dalai Lama, ordained her as a Tibetan Lama, and honorary doctor of Buddhism. This Asia explorer and world-renowned Buddhist scholar was Belgian, Tibetan, French and European.
For several years, Christao lives on his own in a small Portugese village close to the most Western point of Portugal. He is tending his beautiful orchard and kitchen garden. The villagers swear that they are not superstitious but pragmatic when bringing him their ailing animals, which he heals by laying-on-hands. They also say that he is a miracle healer for infertile women, that he is a truly nice guy and very generous. He is Portugese and European.
This Spanish heroine and guerilla fighter, whose son was shot in front of her eyes by Napoleon’s troops, was trained by the Duke of Wellington to committ sabotage against the French army. Agustina began to fight for the allied forces as Wellington’s only female officer, rising to the rank of Captain. and was a battery commander at the Battle of Vitoria. This true swashbuckler, was Spanish, British and European.
Polish-jewish countess Krystyna Skrabek a.k.a. Christina Granville was the first and longest serving female British spy in WWII. Considered absolutely fearless as well as reckless, the expert skier and knife-wielding socialite, saved the day many times. This heroine survived six years of service under extremely dangerous risks — the average life expectancy of a British spy was six weeks — only to be killed by a jilted civilian after the war. In 1945, when no longer needed, she was abandoned by the country she served so bravely. To make a living, she had to take lowly jobs, where she met the jealous man that stabbed her to death. Krystyna, the free spirit, was proudly Polish, British and European.
Ion has consistently made the experience that people don’t recognize his compassionate character, but judge him by his looks. He lives in Bucharest like a recluse in the creaky house of his deceased parents, which he shares with 30 rescued dogs. Caring for so many animals is no mean feat. The little time left in the day, he gets solace from reading the incredible body of Romanian literature: From Alecu Văcărescu to Tristan Tzara; from Mircea Eliade to Ion Barbu. He is Romanian and European.
Although Su Mei Tse, the dopamine aficionado of silence, seems very tasteful and perfectly well behaved, she is currently Luxembourg’s most exciting artist. This polymath is a native Luxembourger, lives in Berlin, but is also Chinese, British and European.
Judith Kerr gave us the book “When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit” — the story of a refugee child during WWII — among many other beloved children’s books. The sanguine writer, depicted here as a seven-year old, was born in 1923. When her father was asked, if he would not want to move back to France after the war, where the food was better, and his language skills superior, he purportedly replied: “Only if I can take all of the wonderful British people, that helped us so much, with me.” She is German, French, British and European.
Milena tends a flock of forty rare Karakachan sheep, an old Bulgarian breed with long, brown hair and horns like corkscrews. She guards the flock with her dog and best friend Vasil. Together, they criss-cross the Pirin mountains all summer. European politics seems very far away to her. She is very concerned for her sheep, since the weather becomes year after year more extreme. Torrential rain falls, and sudden storms, but also long droughts, poor pastures, and increasing water shortages. Last year, when the mothers had too little milk, she tried to raise the lambs with a bottle, but couldn’t save them all. Milena is Bulgarian and European.
“My European Faces” is a a series of portraits inquiring what makes Europeans European — beyond their current identity as an economic joint venture.
It includes mythological, historic, imaginary, public, and private people filtered through my liking, beliefs, emotions, and memories. In its entirety, the series aims to reveal the family resemblance (Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, 1953) of Europeans.
Winston Churchill was not a quitter, the buck stopped with him. He stood alone between European civilization and an Apocalypse. This Remainiac was British & European
On 11.April 2019, a long extension for Great Britain is reached: Ananke is reminding Europeans of the necessity of the Law of Nature. According to Orphism, Ananke formed herself at the dawn of creation in an incorporeal, serpentine form, her outstretched arms encompassing the cosmos. Ananke and Time (Chronos) are belonging together, holding each other in serpent form as a tie around the universe. Their destructive act, of crushing an egg (big bang), created the decomposed parts that formed earth, heaven, and ocean. Ananke, mother of the Moirai is universal, Greek, and also European.
For Kyria, an archaeologist and Classics scholar, Greece and Europe are defined by the past, not the present. Her Greece is that of the Illyad, Athens under Pericles, Alexander’s empire, Herakleitos, Plato, and Aristotle. She cannot see the decline of talent that has plagued Europe since 400 BC, and specifically how a trauma of four centuries of suppression, and two world wars, would — even today — hamper Greeks’ agency, cognition, and problem solving. She is Greek and European.
Lola, a former actress, always believed that humans can change for the better. And when she –like her entire generation— looked back at her grandparents, she felt relieved by the idea that she’d do better, if she was in their situation. However, it recently dawned on her that she’s back in 1929. The ugly beast is lifting its head again. The intimidation and the “looking the other way” are starting again: We know where you live…. Today she realizes: Germans are and always were odium looking for a cause. Nothing has changed. They just suppressed their zeal while it was opportune. She is German and European.
When I asked expat and former tech-entrepreneur, Kiki, a popular coffee house owner on Malta, chef and all-around artist, if she would sit for a portrait, she cringed. Finally, she put on a cool acorn hat, and struck this pose. Kiki is Maltese, British and European.