In the early 19th century, a complex of five museums was founded on the northern half of the Spree island for the expansive Prussian art collections; the so-called Museumsinsel (Museum Island). The Royal Museum was the first of the buildings to be erected in the 1820s, containg the renowned Anquities Collection (Antikensammlung). When plans for a second museum were formed, the name of the Royal Museum was changed into Altes Museum (Old Museum), to form a pair with Neues Museum (New Museum) dedicated to the Egyptian collection.
This 3 hour walk start off exploring the remarkable history and the architecture and collections that together form this art island in the heart of Berlin. Then, having got the sense of the complex, we will make our way to the Alte Nationalgalerie (Old National Gallery) which literally rises up before visitors like a true temple for the arts. In this museum, we form a thorough acquaintance with the fascinating collections of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation. The building structure of the museum with its monumental exterior staircase and magnificent indoor stairway was opened in 1876 to be the home of contemporary art, hence its vast rooms of 19th century paintings and sculpture. The harmonious relationship between the museum’s architecture and its vibrant collection is a unique experience in itself.
The tour will concentrate on the paintings of Caspar David Friedrich in order to highlight the German Romanticism. We will talk about the spiritual beauty of Friedrich’s works and discuss his unique artistic practice. Furthermore, we will try to understand why his paintings have fascinated and influenced generations of other artists, and to what extent they keep inspiring today’s viewers. Alongside Friedrich, we expand our view by taking in many other great examples of 19th century German art, such as the large collection of paintings by Max Liebermann, Lovis Corinth and Adolf Menzel that enable us to discuss the practice of Realism during this era.
Once we have built our sense of the German art of the period, we can broaden are lens by exploring the museums rich holdings of French Impressionism as well. Masterpieces by Edouard Manet, Claude Monet, Auguste Renoir, Edgar Degas, Paul Cézanne and sculptures by Auguste Rodin will be subject of our attention and analysis too. In order to consider the revolutionizing priniciples of this movement, we consider the importance of individual artistic style, the influences of non-western artistic practices, the emergence of new art supplies, and the influence of photography for the visual arts of this period. Our aim is to appreciate these works by thinking about the multiple contexts—cultural, creative and political–that led to this influential period art.