Three hundred years ago, on 23 July 1721, Anna Dorothea Therbusch was born in Berlin, who would go on to become one of the most important women artists of the 18th century. To mark the tercentenary of her birth, in autumn of 2021 the Gemäldegalerie is honouring this extraordinary artist and forerunner of women’s emancipation with a focussed special exhibition featuring key works from the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin’s own collections.
The unusual career path of Anna Doroethea Therbusch (1721–1782) began early on. The daughter of the Prussian court painter Georg Lisiewsky, she and her siblings received her initial instruction as a painter from her father. As the wife of an innkeeper and mother of five children, however, for some time, her artistic abilities lay idle. In her forties, though, she dedicated herself to painting with great vigour, and in 1767 she was one of the few women to be accepted into Europe’s most important art school of the time, the Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture in Paris. After returning to her home town, she became a highly sought-after portrait painter, and with likenesses of figures such as Henriette Herz, Frederick the Great and the doctor Christian Andreas Cothenius, one of the most important chroniclers of the Age of Enlightenment.
Not just one, but two of the branches of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin boast works by this great local artist in their collections, namely the Gemäldegalerie and the Alte Nationalgalerie. These collections have also provided museums right across the city with permanent loans, with Therbusch’s work on display at the Bode-Museum, the Kunstgewerbemuseum and at the Jewish Museum Berlin. One of her best-known works is her large-format self-portrait from around 1782, which is displayed at the Gemäldegalerie. In this work, Therbusch presents herself as a scholar and elegant figure of note, and as an approachable and intelligent interlocutor, demonstrating her interest in both objects and her conversation partner through the book in her hand and her frontal gaze.
To mark this tercentenary, in autumn 2021, the Gemäldegalerie is gathering together almost the entire collection of Therbusch works in the holdings of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin in a focussed special exhibition centred around this major work. Complemented by key works from contemporaries, the show provides a comprehensive overview of the oeuvre and professional milieu of Anna Dorothea Therbusch, and of the age in which she lived.
A special presentation by the Gemäldegalerie in cooperation with the Nationalgalerie – Staatliche Museen zu Berlin.