Pensioner Schwenke: splendor and pomp from the plate


It doesn’t need grand halls to bring to life the splendor of ancient principalities and kings. Roland Schwenke (68) manages this in his eight-square-meter studio in a Dresden prefabricated housing estate. There he paints oil paintings that are compared to the masterpieces of Bernardo Bellotto (aka: Canaletto).

Befitting his status, many of his pictures also hang in castles and with prominent customers!


Prince Georg zur Lippe (right) and Schwenke unveil his latest work: a cityscape of Venice

Prince Georg zur Lippe (right) and Schwenke unveil his latest work: a cityscape of VenicePhoto: Picxell

The Saxon has spent his working life at the stove and is a trained cook. “But in 2002 I had to stop for health reasons,” recalls Schwenke. He kept his head above water with job creation schemes and 1-euro jobs.

“But the ceiling fell on my head. That’s why I took painting courses at the adult education center,” says Schwenke. Because he knew he always had a talent for art. Only he could never live it out.

“Even back in the GDR, I wanted to take a course. But there were the motifs ‘Vietnamese in the rice field’ or ‘Steelworker at work’. But I wanted to paint the Alps,” says Schwenke.


The artist and his cat: Schwenke works a cat's hair into every picture

The artist and his cat: Schwenke works a cat’s hair into every picturePhoto: Picxell

After reunification, he was too old to study art in Dresden. “Meanwhile I’ve taught myself everything,” he laughs and continues to paint on the lace collar of the “Winter King” (Friedrich V., 1596-1632), which is standing on his easel.

The client for his new work is Prince Georg zur Lippe (64), a descendant of the nobleman. He heard about the talent of the amateur Canaletto and has already had a dozen pictures painted for him. The originals disappeared in the turmoil of war.

Prinz zur Lippe: “The pictures have their own soul, for me they are better than some originals.”

And further: “He is a great example of someone who has started something completely new. His second life is much more eventful than his first!”

Nobility and castles have done to Schwenke. You can see that in the 65 square meter apartment: dark green walls with old sabers and Schwenke’s oil paintings, antique furniture, crystal chandeliers. “It’s supposed to remind me of the Green Salon at Proschwitz Castle,” says Schwenke.


This is where the Schwenke family lives: in Dresden-Gorbitz

This is where the Schwenke family lives: in Dresden-GorbitzPhoto: Picxell

With Proschwitz’ landlord Prince Georg with Princess Alexandra he is now on first-name terms, the lord of the castle also visits him regularly in the Platte.


Pensioner Schwenke: splendor and pomp from the plate
Photo: BILD

Schwenke does not demand a fee: “I get paid for the materials and picture frames. The prince invites me to the castle and brings a case of his wine over.”

This is what a real 18th-century Canaletto looks like

Schwenke is also called the “Highland Canaletto” – after a Dresden suburb and the stage name of Bernardo Bellotto (1722-1780).


Pensioner Schwenke: splendor and pomp from the plate
Photo: Picxell

Bellotto was world famous for his vedute (city views) of Venice, Vienna and Dresden. In 1747 he came to the court of the Saxon King Friedrich August II, who even made him godfather to his daughters.

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