The Picture Gallery (German: Gemäldegalerie) is an art museum in Berlin, Germany, and the museum where the main selection of paintings belonging to the Berlin State Museums (Staatliche Museen zu Berlin) is displayed. The Gemäldegalerie boasts one of the world’s most important collections of European painting ranging from the 13th to 18th century. Masterpieces from all epochs in the history of art are on permanent display here, including paintings by Jan van Eyck, Pieter Bruegel, Albrecht Dürer, Raphael, Titian, Caravaggio, Peter Paul Rubens, Rembrandt, and Jan Vermeer van Delft. The gallery is especially proud of its strong collection of German and Italian painting from the 13th to 16th century and painting from the Low Countries dating from the 15th to 17th century. It was first opened in 1830, and the current building was completed in 1998. It is located in the Kulturforum museum district west of Potsdamer Platz.
The paintings in the collection have been on show in their present home at the Kulturforum since 1998. The design proposals for the Gemäldegalerie’s new building were submitted in an architectural competition in 1986, with the contract awarded to the architects Hilmer & Sattler the following year. With distinctly Prussian austerity of expression, the simple building rises above the sloping piazzetta, while inside its individual galleries are grouped around a light-filled central hall.
In its sense of architectural restraint, the simple designs of the façade are deliberately reminiscent of Karl Friedrich Schinkel’s Altes Museum. And in keeping with this, the individual galleries within demonstrate a classical sense of proportion. From the large central hall visitors can weave their way through the galleries at leisure, dipping in and out on their personal tour through the collection.
The building was built by the architects Hilmer & Sattler and Albrecht, including the villa of the publisher Paul Parey. It has an approximately rectangular floor plan, the north facade was pulled slightly outward. The exterior facades themselves are made of densely grooved terracotta panels, which are mounted on a high rustic base and thus convey an optical image that is reminiscent of both the Italian Renaissance and the Prussian classicism. At the heart of the building is a two-row colonnade with flat vaulted ceilings and 32 clear-glass domes, centered around the well installation 5-7-9 series by the American conceptual artist Walter De Maria. The actual exhibition rooms, 18 halls and 41 cabinets lie in horseshoe shape in two layers around the hall and are normally lit only by daylight (skylight). They cover an exhibition area of about 7000 square meters and offer space for about 900 paintings on a walk of about two kilometers, with about 1800 meters of hanging surface. Around 400 more pictures will be shown in a 12-room study gallery in the basement of the building. Since the opening of the Bode Museum in 2006, a further 150 paintings have been exhibited there in conjunction with the Sculpture Collection in order to visualize art-related contexts visually.
The tender for the construction of the Gemäldegalerie dates back to 1986. The new building was originally intended to house only the pictures kept in Berlin-Dahlem. After the union with the Gemäldegalerie on the Museum Island in 1991, however, it was clear that the planned new building was far too small to be able to adequately exhibit the doubled picture stock. Nevertheless, in order to be able to carry out the merging of both collections as quickly as possible, to avoid time-consuming and expensive new planning and not to let down already approved building grounds, the gallery was nevertheless erected in the planned form. In order to maximize the cross-section of the entire collection, it was decided to outsource the restoration workshops, which were to be housed in the basement, and to create a study gallery in the vacant rooms, modeled after the National Gallery in London more important works of the collection can be shown. This collection is in its current form the result of an ambitious collection policy, full of success and also painful cuts. The inventory of the collection also reflects the political events of the last two hundred years.
The Gemäldegalerie first opened its doors as a public institution in 1830, in its original home overlooking Lustgarten, the ‘Royal Museum’ known today as the Altes Museum, designed by Karl Friedrich Schinkel. The combined art collection of Friedrich Wilhelm of Brandenburg and Frederick the Great formed the basis of the collection in the 17th and 18th centuries. The first director of the gallery, Gustav Friedrich Waagen, arranged and expanded the Berlin collection according to systematic scholarly criteria as opposed to purely personal tastes, something which was genuinely innovative at the time.
The international reputation the gallery now commands is largely due to Wilhelm von Bode, who served as its director from 1890 to 1929. Under his watch and thanks to his great connoisseurship and commitment, a string of significant acquisitions were made to expand the collection. Thanks to his efforts, we now have a near complete survey of European painting from the 13th century onwards.
In 1904, the gallery and its swollen collection relocated to the newly purpose-built Bode-Museum, known at the time as the Kaiser Friedrich-Museum, which was conceived as a museum of Renaissance art. Bode prompted wealthy Prussian citizens to lend their financial support to securing new acquisitions and in 1897 he founded the patrons society, the Kaiser Friedrich-Museums-Verein, which is still active today.
The Second World War marked the end of the collection’s long and illustrious period of continuous development. The museum building itself was badly damaged in the aerial bombardment. Over 400 large-scale works were lost in the war. The subsequent partitioning of the city in the Cold War led to a division of the collection that only magnified these losses. From that point on, the Gemäldegalerie was split between two exhibition venues: one in Berlin-Dahlem (West Berlin), the other at the Bode-Museum on the Museumsinsel Berlin in Mitte (East Berlin), in a situation that prevailed until 1997. After being divided for more than fifty years, the collection went on display at the Kulturforum in 1998, restored to its original splendour. Plans are currently being devised to eventually return the art museum to its historical place of origin, the Museumsinsel Berlin, as a way to present the paintings in an intimate dialogue with sculptures from the same period.
Ever since its foundation in 1830, the Gemäldegalerie’s collection has been developed with a systematic and scholarly eye to the history of art. This consistent and continual survey of European painting from the 13th to 18th century is the basis for both the world-class reputation that the gallery enjoys today and the many incomparable masterpieces that it contains, dating from all key art-historical epochs.
A complete tour of the gallery stretches to just under two kilometres, taking the visitor through some 72 main galleries and intimate small side-rooms, which act as windows onto the constantly shifting terrain of the history of Western art. Core focal points in the collection are German and Italian painting of the 13th to 16th century and Netherlandish painting of the 15th and 16th century. The collection of paintings from the late Middle Ages and Renaissance ranges from the great Italian masters Giotto, Fra Angelico, Raphael and Titian to the richly detailed pictures of Pieter Bruegel, via the Flemish master Jan van Eyck and the most notable figures in early German painting of the Gothic and Renaissance periods such as Konrad Witz, Albrecht Dürer, Hans Baldung Grien, Lucas Cranach the Elder, and Hans Holbein. The gallery of Rembrandt’s works occupies a central role in the museum, which is reflected by the central position it commands. With some 16 works by the artist, the Gemäldegalerie presides over one of the largest and most exquisite Rembrandt collections in the world. It is enhanced by a number of other paintings by Dutch and Flemish artists of the 17th century. An array of portraits, genre paintings, interior scenes, landscapes, and still lifes are a vivid reflection of the way artists in this golden age of painting specialized in repeatedly depicting certain subjects. The splendid collection of Italian, French, German, and English 18th-century painting includes works by Canaletto, Jean-Antoine Watteau, Antoine Pesne, and Thomas Gainsborough.
Approximately 1000 masterpieces are on display in the upper galleries at any one time. Since May 2017 the central hall became a new, central entry point to the Gemäldegalerie with the exhibition In a New Light. The choice of works and their hanging provide viewers with orientation for their tour through the building and invite them to discover the individual collection areas, art schools, and stylistic periods. In addition, audio guides are on offer in German and English.
German painting from the 13th to the 16th century:
This department of the Gemäldegalerie houses one of the most important collections of old German painting worldwide, in which all schools and styles of the time are presented almost completely. The highlights of the collection include the “Wings of the Wurzach Altar”, which are among the few painterly works of the otherwise rather sculptor Hans Multscher, two paintings by Konrad Witz, two paintings by the master of the house book, a Martin Schongauer, two paintings by Hans Holbein d. Ä., Seven pictures each by Albrecht Dürer, Hans Baldung and Albrecht Altdorfer, 22 pictures by Lucas Cranach d. Ä. and five pictures by Hans Holbein d. J.
German painting of the 17th and 18th centuries:
In this area, the collection partially overlaps the holdings of the Berlin National Gallery. It is not quite as extensive as the field of older German painting, but is still one of the more important of its kind. The collection includes painters such as Daniel Chodowiecki, Christian Wilhelm Ernst Dietrich, Johann George Edlinger, Adam Elsheimer, Anton Graff, Angelika Kauffmann, Christian Bernhardt Rode and Johann Rottenhammer, who are represented with mostly larger work complexes.
Dutch painting from the 14th to the 16th century:
In this area, the Berlin collection is considered one of the most important in the world. It provides an almost complete overview from its beginnings to the end of the Renaissance and presents the main masters with numerous major works of their art. The beginning of the collection is marked by three works by Jan van Eyck, which are among the best works of his oeuvre. This is followed by four images of Peter Christ, two images by Robert Campin and images of his students Jacques Daret and Rogier van der Weyden. The latter, with three altars, two individual panels and a number of other works from the workshop, is no more present in any other collection than in Berlin. In addition, the collection has the only undisputed image of Aelbert van Ouwater, two pictures each by Dierick Bouts, Gerard David and Geertgen tot Sint Jans, three pictures by Hugo van der Goes, three pictures by Hans Memling, six pictures by Jan Gossaert and again two pictures by Pieter Bruegel d. Ä .. This is followed by pictures of Hieronymus Bosch, Lucas van Leyden, Quinten Massys, Marinus van Reymerswaele.
Flemish painting of the 17th century:
This section offers an exemplary overview of the Flemish painting of this epoch, which focuses on Peter Paul Rubens with seventeen paintings, Anthonis van Dyck with seven, Jacob Jordaens with three and David Teniers d. J. stand with eight pictures. Around this nucleus are grouped more than two hundred more pictures, which provide a good overview of the Flemish painting of this time. Below are pictures of Adriaen Brouwer, Jan Brueghel d. Ä., Jan Brueghel d. J., Pieter Brueghel d. J., Gonzales Coques, Jan Fyt, Jan Davidsz. de Heem and Frans Snyders.
17th century Dutch painting:
The Dutch department is one of the best collections ever and offers an excellent overview of this art period. At the heart of the collection is Rembrandt, of whose paintings the collection currently owns 16 well-known works, making it one of the greatest collections of this master. In addition to an excellent collection of works from his circle and his succession (Gerard Dou, Govaert Flinck, Aert de Gelder and Philips de Koninck), the collection offers a comprehensive overview of the Dutch painting of this era as a whole. Willem van Aelst, Jan Asselijn, and Nicolaes Pietersz are some of the painters present in larger groups of works. Berchem, Gerard ter Borch, Hendrick ter Brugghen, Pieter Claesz, Aelbert Cuyp, Jan van Goyen, Frans Hals, Gerrit van Honthorst, Pieter de Hooch, Willem Kalf, Pieter Lastman, Adriaen van Ostade, Isack van Ostade, Paulus Potter, Jacob van Ruisdael and Jan Steen, Jan Vermeer and Emanuel de Witte.
Italian painting of the 13th to 16th centuries:
This area is the largest section of the Gemäldegalerie and offers a comprehensive overview of Italian painting of the time. At the beginning of the Trecento collection are two of Giotto di Bondone’s few hand-painted panels, including important paintings by Maso di Banco, Agnolo Gaddi, Taddeo Gaddi, Lippo Memmi, Bernardo Daddi, Pietro Lorenzetti, Simone Martini, Lorenzo Monaco and Gentile since Fabriano connect. The Quattrocento collection is initiated by the largest collection of individual panels of the Masaccio. This is followed by a picture by Piero della Francesca, five pictures by Fra Angelico, two pictures by Domenico Veneziano, a picture by Antonio del Pollaiuolo, two by his brother Piero del Pollaiuolo, three pictures by Fra Filippo Lippi, three pictures by his son Filippino Lippi , three pictures by Sandro Botticelli, four pictures by Luca Signorelli, seven pictures by Giovanni Bellini, two pictures by Domenico Ghirlandaio, three pictures by Andrea Mantegna and pictures by Gentile Bellini, Piero di Cosimo, Antonello da Messina and one of the few undisputed panels by Andrea del Verrocchio. The Cinquecento presents itself with important works of Giorgione, Titian, Palma il Veccio, Lorenzo Lotto, Sebastiano del Piombo, Agnolo Bronzino, Paris Bordone, Paolo Veronese, Jacopo Tintoretto, Giovanni Battista Moroni, Antonio da Correggio and Parmigianino.
Italian painting of the 17th and 18th centuries:
Far less closed, but with excellent examples present the later Italians. In addition to several works by the Carracci family, the collection presents works by Jacopo Amigoni, Pompeo Girolamo Batoni, Canaletto, Caravaggio, Giuseppe Maria Crespi, Carlo Dolci, Orazio Gentileschi, Luca Giordano, Giovanni Antonio Guardi, Francesco Guardi, Guercino, Sebastiano Ricci and Giovanni Battista Tiepolo and Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo.
Spanish painting of the 15th to 18th centuries:
In purely numerical terms, the Spanish department is one of the larger collections in Germany. With a few exceptions, however, the existing works are considered second- to third-class, so that only a few works are currently being publicly shown within the presentation of Spanish masters of the 17th and 18th centuries. Among the few important paintings are works by Bartolomé Bermejo, Pedro Berruguete, Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, Luis de Morales, Diego Velázquez and Francisco de Zurbarán. Some other examples of early Spanish painting have been exhibited since 2006 in the sculpture collection in the Bode Museum. The non-exhibited works are, with a few exceptions (eg a sketch by Francisco de Goya and works by Alonso Cano and Mateo Cerezo) to works of rather unknown masters to school or workshop pictures and copies.
French painting of the 15th to 18th century:
The French section offers a brief overview of old French painting, which contains a number of outstanding works. The early lighthouses of French painting include the works of Simon Marmion and Jean Fouquet. In Berlin is also the only image of Georges de La Tour in a public collection in Germany. The following works by Jean-Baptiste Greuze, Nicolas de Largillière, Eustache Le Sueur, Claude Lorrain, Jean Baptiste Chardin, Nicolas Poussin, Antoine Watteau, Antoine Pesne, Hubert Robert and François Boucher.
The presentation in the Bode-Museum:
In addition to the paintings on display at the Kulturforum, the Gemäldegalerie has also had a larger collection in the Bode Museum since October 2006. The works integrated in the permanent exhibition of the Sculpture Collection also offer a small, if very incomplete, overview of the history of occidental painting. For this, the collection exhibited several, previously mostly deposited images from their total stock. Only a few works had previously been on display at the Kulturforum in the Schau- and in the Studiensammlung. Some were specially restored for the presentation, including pictures that had belonged to the exhibition of the Kaiser Friedrich Museum and had not been presented publicly since 1939.
As in the main collection, the focus of the exhibits is on Italian, Old Dutch and Old German painting. The highlight of the presentation are the Tiepolo frescoes from the Villa Panigai, which are probably a collaboration between Giovanni Battista and Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo. Alongside them are an Italian painting by Maria with the Child attributed to Paolo Uccello, a Lamentation of Christ by Giovanni Bellini, the Pentecostal of Alvise Vivarini, Hercules at the crossroads of Niccolò Soggi, several portraits by Alessandro Allori, one altarpiece each by Francesco Vecellio and Girolamo dai Libri, the effigy of Benedetto de ‘Medici by Giorgio Vasari, The prophet Balaam on the journey of Luca Giordano and the drunkenness of Noah by Andrea Sacchi. The collection primarily presents works by lesser-known or anonymous artists in Old Dutch painting, of which Michiel Coxcie, known for his copies after great masters, is present with several works. There are also works by Aelbert Bouts and Goswijn van der Weyden. The most important works of the old German school are an Adam and Eve panel by Lucas Cranach d. Ä., Two Portraits by Georg Pencz and a Portrait of a Joachim Martin Falbe. Famous painters from other schools include Ferdinand Bol, Cornelis Cornelisz. van Haarlem and Hubert Robert.
The Masterplan Museumsinsel plans to bring the art gallery back to the Museum Island in the long term, which requires the relocation of the collection of paintings from its current location to a new building to be built there. This new building is planned on the former barracks area opposite the Bode Museum and was named by the acting president of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, Hermann Parzinger, as an urgent task to complete the ensemble Museumsinsel. The more concrete planning planned to exhibit all paintings and sculptures of the southern schools in the Bode Museum and all other works of the two collections in the new building. The current parent company at the Kulturforum would have been affiliated with the Nationalgalerie and would have presented modern art in the future. In June 2012, this plan was soon on the verge of implementation, as a surprise 10 million euros from the federal budget for relocation of the collection and a reconstruction of the existing building of the Picture Gallery were released. However, there was international criticism of the planned temporary depot storage of the collection during the construction period (because of the incalculable costs and completion), which is why the Federal Office for Building and Regional Planning reviewed the overall planning. In August 2013, it presented a feasibility study, which argued in favor of dropping the new building at the Bodemuseum and instead building a much more cost-effective new building for a Museum der Moderne Berlin in addition to the Neue Nationalgalerie at the Kulturforum. The Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation has approved this solution; Thus, the location of the Gemäldegalerie will remain in the existing building at the Kulturforum in the medium term.