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Old National Gallery Collection

19th-Century Sculptures and Paintings

Being a museum of 19th-century painting and sculpture, the Old National Gallery collection mainly features world-famous German art. The works range from the Neo-Classicism of Goethe’s time to Romanticism, Biedermeier, and Impressionism. Thanks to its director Hugo von Tschudi, works of Impressionism found their way into a museum even before 1900.

The National Gallery collection has always included modern art. The collection, which has increased greatly over time, is now divided among several museums in Berlin. Today’s Alte Nationalgalerie features the paintings and sculptures created in the century of its foundation. Painting and sculpture are presented jointly as equal-ranking media of artistic expression.

Selected Highlights of the Alte Nationalgalerie

Highlights der Nationalgalerie
Caspar David Friedrich, ʺThe Tree" (photograph)
© Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin / Jörg P. Anders

Caspar David Friedrich

One of the most precious and extensive collections of works of German Romanticism is on display on the first floor of the Alte Nationalgalerie. The paintings of Caspar David Friedrich are the highlight of the tour. Friedrich’s message was that the contemplation of nature is a meditative experience. In his opinion, only introspection could inspire the type of romantic landscape painting that evoked images seen in dreams and gave expression to feelings of yearning. Like no other artistic oeuvre, Friedrich’s paintings reflect the epochal intellectual process of abandoning time-honored conceptions of the world, which took place around 1800.

Adolph Menzel, ʺSteel Mill" (photograph)
© Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin / Jürgen Liepe

Adolph Menzel

Not least due to his versatility, Adolph Menzel is the most important German painter of the 19th century. His early interest in Prussian history made him turn to historical painting in the 1850s, which initially focused on Frederician themes. The famous “Flute Concert” was created in 1852. In addition, he was artistically involved in depicting the realities of everyday life from the mid-1840s onward. His observation skills were remarkable in that respect. This becomes evident in both the romantic “Room with Balcony” and the large-format “Steel Mill” which is one of the most famous depictions of industrial production.

Johann Gottfried Schadow, “Double Statue of the Princesses Louise and Friederike of Prussia” (photograph)
© Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin / Andres Kilger

Johann Gottfried Schadow

Trueness to nature and a sense of reality are the distinctive features of Johann Gottfried Schadow’s oeuvre. It creates a particularly harmonious balance between the older concept of gracefulness and the call for realism. In addition, it is a visual expression of Schiller’s twin concept of “grace and dignity.” The life-size “Double Statue of the Princesses Louise and Friederike of Prussia” shows the crown princess and her sister united in deep mutual affection. Schadow captures the features of the sisters with great precision, combining baroque sensitivity with neo-classicist ideas of antique sculpture.

Entrance to the Alte Nationalgalerie (visualization)
© SPK / ART+COM, 2015

Entrances

The Old National Gallery collection can be reached via Stüler’s Arcadian Colonnade Courtyard. Beneath the outside flight of stairs, the entrance leads into the imposing foyer and inside stairwell of the Alte Nationalgalerie. They are surrounded by a frieze by Otto Geyer which evokes the idea of the museum temple as a shrine of the German cultural nation. The Alte Nationalgalerie, which towers above the island like a temple, will not be connected to the Archaeological Promenade. Hence, it will also lack a connection to the James-Simon-Galerie which will nevertheless assume central functions as the reception building of the Museum Island as well as the Old National Gallery collection.