How did the Germans of the 19th century – in the period stretching from Goethe to Rilke - see Europe? What did they see, what did they fail to notice? The aim of this exhibition is not to present German history, with its wars, potentates, and revolutions. Rather, it demonstrates the varied content and artistic mastery of German painting in the 19th century.
The history of Germany includes the history of its neighbors and of exchanges with them. Naturally, this involved political, intellectual, and artistic interchanges of varying intensity and quality. It is clear that looking to the South – towards Greece and Italy as the roots of the entire culture of Europe – as well as looking to Germany's French, Belgian, Dutch, and Austrian neighbors – was particularly productive. But there were, starting in the late 18th century, many and varied cultural links with other countries too. In this exhibition – very much in the spirit of the European Union itself – lines of communication are set out between nations, countries, and regions. Its presentation also reflects the history of Germany as a history of small states, which in combination form a cultural unity and diversity.
“This exhibition is about interaction”, explains its curator, Bernhard Maaz. “German history is the history of its neighbors and of exchanges with them.” The journey begins in Greece, the cradle of European culture. Artists such as Karl Friedrich Schinkel and Anselm Feuerbach idealized the places and myths of Antiquity. Italy was the preferred destination of masters such as Joseph Anton Koch, Friedrich Overbeck, and Carl Blechen; Philipp Otto Runge, Johan Christian Dahl, and Caspar David Friedrich drew inspiration from the Copenhagen Academy. Another powerful pole of attraction was formed by the Austrian and Swiss Alps, immortalized in breathtaking panoramas by Friedrich and Ludwig Richter. From Bohemia and Spain we make a detour via English portraiture. Belgium, too, left its traces, with its historical painting. Max Liebermann stylized Dutch genre painting to depict a social Utopia; Carl Spitzweg and Wilhelm Leibl turned enthusiastically to French-style plein-air painting. Our journey ends in Berlin, with an exceptionally perceptive observer: Adolph Menzel, a star in the European firmament.
Exhibition organized by the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden and the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen Munich in collaboration with BOZAR EXPO, Brussels. Funded by the German Federal Cultural Foundation. On the occasion of the German Presidency of the Council of the European Union under the patronage of Dr. Angela Merkel, Chancelor of the Federal Republic of Germany. On exhibition until 20 May, 2007.
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