Welcome to the Alte Nationalgalerie

Alte Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

View from the entrance hall of the Alte Nationalgalerie, Alte Nationalgalerie, From the collection of: Alte Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

A special feature of the Alte Nationalgalerie is the experience and discovery of the art of the long 19th century in the midst of the architecture of their time. The ascent through the staircase of the Nationalgalerie resembles a walk through the entire spectrum of 19th and early 20th century art.

Starting with the two girls playing instruments by the sculptor Adolf von Hildebrand unfolds on the ground floor, a roundelay of music, national fairy tale of motifs, dance and opera. Following the idea of the total work of art, which was developed in the late 19th century, the exhibited art forms interlock.

Accompany us through the museum and gain insights into the collection of the Alte Nationalgalerie!

Lake Grunewald, Walter Leistikow, 1895, From the collection of: Alte Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Today, the Alte Nationalgalerie preserves around 3,500 paintings and sculptures of the entire 19th century, including key works of classicism, romanticism and the dawn of modernity.

Walter Leistikow's large-format painting "Grunewaldsee" - directly above the cash register area - triggered a scandal. Not only that the painting was rejected by the jurors of the Great Berlin Art Exhibition and donated to the Alte Nationalgalerie, Kaiser Wilhelm II explicitly expressed his displeasure during a visit to the collection. He rejected the decorative-stylized image of the painting with the words, "he knows the Grunewald." The unusual cut and the expressive lines seem to be influenced by Japanese color woodblock prints Leistikow had come to during his trip to Paris.

The rejection of the work fell into a nationally heated debate on purchases and influences of French art in Germany and exemplifies the controversial position of the Nationalgalerie in the 19th century between official art policy and avant-garde.

Entrance hall of the Alte Nationalgalerie, Alte Nationalgalerie, From the collection of: Alte Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

The works of art in the entrance and stairway of the Alte Nationalgalerie give a programmatic impression of the works represented in the collection.

At the opening of the Nationalgalerie in 1876, the portraits of the Emperor's pair welcomed the visitors, and today the two large-format paintings testify to an increasingly internationalized art scene in the 19th century. The entrance to the collection area on the first floor today flanks the paintings of the Turkish painter Osman Hamdi Bey ("Miracle fountain", 1904) and the American Gari Melcher ("The Family", 1895/96).

The miracle well (Reading Arab), Osman Hamdi Bey, 1904, From the collection of: Alte Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
The family, Gari Melchers, around 1895/96, From the collection of: Alte Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
Lyra playing girl, Adolf von Hildebrand, 1908/1913, From the collection of: Alte Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
Lute playing girl, Adolf von Hildebrand, 1908/1913, From the collection of: Alte Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
Sleeping beauty, Louis Sussmann-Hellborn, 1878, From the collection of: Alte Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Without any commission, Berlin-born sculptor Louis Sussmann-Hellborn designed the monumental marble sculpture "Sleeping Beauty". In 1888 he donated it to the Nationalgalerie.

The motive of the sleeping princess was read as a national figure of identification against the background of the unification achieved immediately before the creation of the work, whose "revival" paraphrased the newly awakened German Reich.

Sleeping beauty, Louis Sussmann-Hellborn, 1878, From the collection of: Alte Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin


However, the splendid design of the belt and the throne with gold and precious stones planned by Sussmann-Hellborn, as well as the virtuoso design of the rose vines and the spindle made out of metal, suggest a further possibility of interpretation. This aims at the haptic sensuality of the sculpture with simultaneous taboo. Just as the virtuoso treatment of the material seems to seduce the observer to a forbidden touch, so the actually virtuous royal daughter touched the fateful spindle.

Treppenhaus der Alten Nationalgalerie, Alte Nationalgalerie, 2017, From the collection of: Alte Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
The Singer Francisco d'Andrade as Don Giovanni in Mozart's Opera (The Red d'Andrade), Max Slevogt, 1912/1912, From the collection of: Alte Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

The painter Max Slevogt, along with Lovis Corinth and Max Liebermann, is one of the most important representatives of German impressionism.

He dealt intensively with the theme of music in his painterly work. Several stage designs, illustrations and paintings were created, including the role portrait of the famous Portuguese Mozart interpreter Francisco d'Andrade as Don Giovanni.
The portrait in the staircase of the Alte Nationalgalerie shows Don Giovanni at night in the cemetery. Don Giovanni reaches for the sword as a voice rises from the grave of the killed commander. Behind the bright white of his cloak, his anxious servant Leporello looks wide-eyed. The work received general enthusiasm mainly through the expressive unity of portrait and role image and is the third variant of the theme.

The painting was bought in 1912 as the first of a total of 24 works Slevogts for the National Gallery and significantly established the fame of the collection as a museum of contemporary modernism.

Female dancer, Georg Kolbe, 1911/12, From the collection of: Alte Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

The »Female dancer« is the most famous work of Georg Kolbe. When it was exhibited in the Berlin Secession in 1912, the critics were enthusiastic. The Berlin Nationalgalerie acquired the bronze in the same year with the condition that it must remain unique.

The slightly bent legs, the extended hip and the inclined head suggest a rotation about the own body axis - a moment of movement, held in the rigid medium of the bronze. In spite of all his expressive devotion, Kolbe succeeded in transforming the dance movement into a balanced, strict form. This made the »Female dancer« an icon for numerous young artists and art critics. Her continued admiration was supported by the fact that since her purchase Kolbe's figure has always been present in the permanent exhibition of the Nationalgalerie.

Cultural-historical figure frieze, Otto Geyer, 1870/1875, From the collection of: Alte Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

The frieze created by Otto Geyer from 1870 to 1875, originally around all four sides of the stairwell, illustrates the construction of a german and thus for the first time national identity of culture and history.

The cultural achievements of Germany unfold in a chronological order from the Germanic beginning to the genesis of the building: represented by fine artists, writers and architects, rulers and inventors. The inclusion of researchers corresponds to the original idea of the Museum Island as a »sanctuary for art and science«.

Cultural-historical figure frieze, Otto Geyer, Photo taken 1897, From the collection of: Alte Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
Cultural-historical figure frieze, Otto Geyer, Photo taken 1948, From the collection of: Alte Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Due to the destruction of the war, only the first three sides of the once 35 meter long frieze Otto Geyers have survived.

The fourth side showed the current present for the construction of the Nationalgalerie and culminated in the representation of the "Germania", which represented the regained imperial crown.

Staircase with new Stuccolustro surfaces and protection of reclaimed balusters, handrails and profiles, Alte Nationalgalerie, Photo taken 2001, From the collection of: Alte Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

During the first restoration after the war, some figures and details were reconstructed. These additions were clearly distinguishable from the style of the formal language Geyers. During the general renovation of the Alte Nationalgalerie from 1998 to 2001, corrections to the first restoration were dispensed with. In order to place the figures in their context and to follow the history picture at least imaginatively to the end, the captions - including those of the lost figures - were reconstructed in a dull glowing gold tone. Historical photos as well as the descriptions in previous catalogs served as a model.

Staircase during the construction work as part of the general renovation, Alte Nationalgalerie, Photo taken 2001, From the collection of: Alte Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
Staircase after the general renovation with a view of the "Boy with thorn" of Gustav Eberlein and Anselm von Feuerbach's "Banquet of the Plato", Alte Nationalgalerie, From the collection of: Alte Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
Boy with thorn, Gustav Eberlein, 1879/1886, From the collection of: Alte Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

With the »Dornauszieher«, Gustav Eberlein shows us an old motive familiar from ancient sculpture. Nevertheless, Eberlein creates a genuinely new version that deviates significantly from the ancient model. The concentrated bowing of the seated figure Eberlein sat opposite a backward inclined, entangled attitude motif, in which the young man looking over his right shoulder trying to grab his foot.

With the model of the "Dornausziehers" Eberlein succeeded in 1880 the breakthrough on the Berlin academy exhibition. He received the Small Gold Medal, one of the most coveted awards. In the same year he was appointed teacher of figurative sculpture at the Berlin Museum of Applied Arts. The marble design shown in the Alte Nationalgalerie was created in 1886 - as noted on the plinth - in Rome. Also the wooden postament, which is decorated with antiquing ram's heads and festoons, is a design of the sculptor.

Eberleins rise to become one of the most important sculptors of the Neo-Baroque in Prussia began with the acquisition of this sculpture by the Nationalgalerie.

Portrait of the chimpanzee Missie, Anton Puchegger, 1916/17, From the collection of: Alte Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

The portrayal of the chimpanzee »Missie« by the austrian sculptor Anton Puchegger, painted from Rio-Rosewood, is probably the most curious work that can be discovered in the public rooms of the Nationalgalerie. Almost as curious as her real life model, the famous and for her uniqueness celebrated chimpanzee from Cameroon, which came in 1902 as an attraction in the Berlin Zoo. Her popularity did not break and in 1916/17 this sculpture, unfinished by the death of Puchegger, was created in the midst of the war years.

Puchegger created a monolithic form left in cubic form, the expression of which is decisively influenced by the motive of the crossed arms and the supposedly melancholy look into the distance.

Ludwig Justi, the then director of the Nationalgalerie, acquired the sculpture at an estate exhibition in the "Künstlerhaus" of the "Verein Berliner Künstler". Then she was handed over to the zoological garden Berlin for hire. Reported as a war loss after 1945, she was found again in a building of the Zoological Garden in 2011, whereupon in 2014 she finally returned to the Nationalgalerie collection.

View of Karl Friedrich Schinkel (1781-1841) "Gothic monastery ruin and tree groups", Alte Nationalgalerie, From the collection of: Alte Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
Gothic monastery ruin and tree groups, Karl Friedrich Schinkel, 1809, From the collection of: Alte Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Karl Friedrich Schinkel was one of the most important and versatile artists of the first half of the 19th century. He was known not only as a painter and draftsman, but also more accomplished, by the king highly esteemed master builder and architect. To this day, his works decisively shape the urban landscape of Berlin, especially the center near Museum Island.

In 1923, numerous works from the collection of the Beuth-Schinkel-Museum enriched the collection of the Nationalgalerie.

The painting "Gothic Monastery Ruins and Trees" presented in the staircase is by far the largest painting that has been preserved by the artist. The programmatic work not only announces the architectural commitment of the young architect, but is also a rare reference to the casual style of his entirely lost theatrical stage and diorama painting.

View of "The Banquet (After Plato) Second Version", Alte Nationalgalerie, From the collection of: Alte Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

In his monumental work, Anselm Feuerbach draws on a theme handed down from Plato: the philosophical discourse on the idea of ​​love, to which, according to Plato's tradition, several protagonists gathered round a table contributed. Feuerbach, however, did not place the individual contributors at the center of his action, but the moment when the calm, collected round of talks is interrupted by the wine-loving and pleasurable Alcibiades, who arrives to meets the host, the poet Aristophanes, who has left the table.

The Berlin picture is the second version of the topic. After a lecture on the Platonic Dialogue in Heidelberg in 1857, Feuerbach had again and again engaged with the design of Plato's banquet. In 1869, the artist had finally completed a first version and presented it at the Munich Art Exhibition - under sometimes devastating reactions. This later came into the possession of the Karlsruhe Kunsthalle - this version differs from the Berlin version, especially in color and the narrow space stage, which interacts with the magnificent illusionist frame design.

The Banquet (After Plato) Second Version, Anselm Feuerbach, 1871/1874, From the collection of: Alte Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

The figure of Agathon, bearing the welcome drink, divides the composition into two sections, each separated from the other.

The celebration party on the left half of the picture celebrates a true Dionysian spectacle. Tambourine, flute and garland create an atmosphere of cheerfulness and unrestrained play around Alcibiades.

Not only the leopard skin of the tambourine player, but also the painted frame give a clear reference to the cult of Dionysus. Here you will find both the Dionysian referring theater mask as well as plump down in the picture happening down grape vines.

The Banquet (After Plato) Second Version, Anselm Feuerbach, 1871/1874, From the collection of: Alte Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

On the right, quiet side, the morality of ancient philosophers prevails. In the middle sits the illuminated by the light Socrates, which forms the obvious and substantive center of the round.

As a sign of disapproval, he turns away from the furious events around Alcibiades. He counteracts the Dionysian intoxication and the pleasures of the body intellect and the apollinian forces of the spirit.

Strikingly placed is also the statuette of the goddess of victory Nike. If Feuerbach left it completely unconsidered in the first version, it appears in the Berlin picture directly above the assembled scholar. Almost as if she would win the laurel wreath victorious over the spiritual life.

View of "The Banquet (After Plato) Second Version", Alte Nationalgalerie, From the collection of: Alte Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
Credits: Story

Text: Staatliche Museen zu Berlin – Preußischer Kulturbesitz
Concept: Dr. Yvette Deseyve
Editing / Realisation: Malith C. Krishnaratne
Video: Malith C. Krishnaratne & Patrick Horn

© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin – Preußischer Kulturbesitz

www.smb.museum
Alte Nationalgalerie

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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