IPMA International Project Management Association
9 March 2018 / 8:17

The Project Maker – A forgotten masterpiece

Carl Spitzweg (February 5, 1808 – September 23, 1885) was a German romanticist painter, especially of genre subjects. He was self-taught as an artist, starting out by copying the works of Flemish masters. He contributed his first work to satiric magazines.

One of his masterpieces is “Der Projektenmacher (Ballonfahrt/Luftige Station)” (“The Project Maker (Balloon Flight/Airy Station)”). It shows a gondola floating in the clouds with an airman upright, a seated companion opposite of him, obviously folding hands into prayer. The grotesque scene is made clear by the fact that gondola and balloon are not connected by any ropes. In the background dark clouds. In the background, dark clouds pile up into a thunderstorm, the scenery looks threatening. Did the lines come off? Were they even cut?

What will the two airmen do? They seem to be in a critical predicament, the upright airman seems to be hopeful and forward looking. The other is more withdrawn, anxious, looking for salvation. The left airman (maybe the project maker?) stands upright in the light of a single ray of light and apparently talks about the next steps. Or maybe about the next adventure? His companion does not really seem to believe in a future, he is more of a realist and accept his fate. Does the captain even have wings, like an angel? Can he master the situation? But what happens to his companion? While one of them believes in his apotheosis, the other looks forward in silent scream to his hellish journey. God and the devil, heaven and hell seem to meet in the project maker …

Spitzweg describes in this painting human nature itself, which remains trapped in the eternal dichotomy between happiness, visions, and the frightening narrowness of circumstances. In spite of the hopeless situation, the airman preserves in a look of pride a dignified posture in which wings grow…

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Reinhard Wagner

Author of this post

Reinhard Wagner has been active for more than 30 years in the field of project- related leadership, in such diverse sectors as Air Defense, Automotive Engineering, and Machinery, as well as various not-for-profit organizations. As a Certified Projects Director (IPMA Level A), he has proven experience in managing projects, programmes and project portfolios in complex and dynamic contexts. He is also an IPMA Certified Programme and Portfolio Management Consultant, and as such supports senior executives in developing and improving their organizational competence in managing projects. For more than 15 years, he has been actively involved in the development of project, programme and portfolio management standards, for example as Convenor of the ISO 21500 “Guidance on Project Management” and the ISO 21503 “Guidance on Programme Management”. Reinhard Wagner is Past President of IPMA and Chairman of the Council, Honorary Chairman of GPM (the German Project Management Association), as well as Managing Director of Tiba Managementberatung GmbH.